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Flexible Working Act 2023

Alarm clock with words FLEXIBLE WORK on light wooden background close-up. Business concept
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The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Act) 2023 received Royal assent and is expected to be in force summer 2024. Employees will be able to make 2 flexible working requests in any 12-month period and employers must process these within 2 months (currently 3 months). Requests may not be refused without consultation with the employee. Employees will still need 26 weeks’ service to make a flexible working request.

Government have been promoting that it will make flexible working requests a day 1 entitlement, however has not made legislation to do this yet. Some employers have gone ahead and started offering flexible working as a day 1 right. This legislative change will be coming.

Practically managing a request for flexible working will need to be changed and ACAS has initiated consultation to update its Code of Practice regarding handling requests for flexible working. Employers will be encouraged to take a positive approach and not to reject requests without open minded consideration.

This is all well and good, however employers, business owners and line managers are not always best placed to manage formal employment processes let alone those governed by legislature. This makes a business susceptible to increased formal complaint (grievance) if and when the process hasn’t been followed correctly. This has unfortunate negative connotations for both the employee requesting and the business responding to the request.

Time to make sure you have a Flexible Working Request Policy or update your current policy to reflect these changes. Whilst doing so decide if you’re an employer who complies with current legislature or an employer who follows best practice by getting ahead of the curve and offering employment terms ahead of the government telling you to.

Building For The Future

Our Guest Writer - Jane Holmes

Building for the Future is an established, award-winning charity supporting disabled children and their families in Wokingham Borough and surrounding areas. Since 2014 it has run ‘Our House’ a purpose designed community centre. Uniquely, it is run by parents of disabled children who know exactly what families need and how to best provide it.

Small charities provide the services and fill the gaps in need that local Councils do not. Often they receive no funding whatsoever, despite providing crucial services and rely wholly on fundraising to exist, every penny of which goes towards the cause they are supporting.

Large charities are the ones whose names stick in people’s minds, but they are not the ones making a difference at local level and supporting local charities is crucial. Some years ago, Berkshire Community Foundation estimated that for every pound that was donated to charity, 90p of it left Berkshire. A good rule of thumb is, don’t give to charities that can afford to advertise on the television!

With so much negative publicity that has been created surrounding certain charities, people have been put off donating and so fundraising for those of us who are doing an important job has become harder than ever. Please consider looking into local charities for your event or business fundraising drive. Not only will the impact of your donation be greater but you can be sure that every penny you give will be helping those less fortunate in your immediate area.

Record Levels of Long-Term Sickness in UK

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The latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that 2.55 million people in the UK are out of work for increasingly extended periods of time as a result of suffering from long-term illness. This number has soared and includes the impact of Long Covid.

For employers, business owners and line managers having any employee absence whether it’s a day or long term will impact performance. After all someone has to pick up the duties that the absent employee does or those duties won’t get done. Unfortunately, that is often to the detriment of quality of duties performed but also to the individuals now doing two peoples’ work long-term and that in turn impacts their wellbeing.

Of course, temporary workers may be utilised to fulfil the absentees duties but rarely if ever can an employer receive the same level and quality of work from day one of a temporary worker in comparison to their experienced absentee. Factor in the lead time to find the temporary worker. Any new starters learning curve needs to be allowed for, after all a new starters probation period is utilised partly to be indicative of an individual’s competence to fulfil the role. Therefore, that probation time frame is also indicating how long someone needs to get up to speed in a role.

Long term absence is generally considered to be circa 1 month or more and this period of time should ideally trigger employer interventions all designed to keep the employee connected and supported.

These interventions are often incrementally approached dependent upon the employee and employers needs but often include setting up regular communication, home visits, group income protection triggers, occupational health services, rehabilitation planning and phased returns to work.

There is new Government consultation underway regarding the provision of occupational health in the workplace with the aim of improving workplace support, a move to boost productivity and prevent ill-health unemployment. It is expected that consultation will close in October 2023.

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Illegal Working

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Be aware that there will be a BIG, BIG increase in civil penalties for employers who employ an individual without the appropriate immigration permission. The penalties will be tripled to £45,000 per illegal worker for an initial breach and to £60,000 per illegal worker for repeat breaches.

Qualifying someone’s eligibility to work is not as simple as getting a copy of someone’s passport. This duty is often undertaken by someone who is trained to do so. Yes, you heard that right there are training courses and specialist equipment used in order to not only qualify eligibility to work but to help provide evidence for the employer to show their due diligence. Don’t fall foul of this, faked documents are getting better and better and employees here on visas need tracking as many employers fall foul of penalties simply because a visa expired and an employee became an illegal worker. Just because an employee and their employer have not noticed a visa expiry does not mean the UK Border Force hasn’t.