New flexible working laws: What law firms need to know to be a fair workplace

Brian Rogers, regulatory director at  Access Legal

By Legal Futures Associate Access Legal

Two months on since changes to the Flexible Working Act came into force, law firms need to make sure they have taken action to update policies and procedures to meet it. Here, Brian Rogers, regulatory director at  Access Legal, a leading provider of software and solutions, explores what the act is and how it affects law firms.

What are the new flexible working laws?

The new flexible working regulations came into effect on 6 April 2024, giving employees the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one of employment. They apply to all job applications made on or after 6 April, meaning many employees coming into law firms now will have that right to request flexible working arrangements on their first day.

‘Flexible working’ in relation to this legislation, can refer to working patterns or hours, including part time, flexi-time, term time, compressed hours and adjusting start and finish times, as well as location; for example, working from home.

The regulations are part of wider changes made in the Act, which require employers to consult with the employee when they make a flexible working request before rejecting it. It also means the time employers have to respond to a request is reduced to two months, from the three months they were allowed under previous rules. Employees are also able to make two requests within a 12-month period.

While some law firms have been ahead of the game in offering the new flexible working rule for some time, those not offering this should consider how to put new measures in place.

Considerations for how law firms can ensure their policies and procedures are foolproof and help them remain an attractive place to work:

Keep employees informed

It’s not a legal requirement for law firms to have a flexible working policy in place but it is best practice to have one to set out the firm’s stance and legal obligations to employees. So familiarise yourself with the revised Act and look into template policy documents which are available online.

Respond quickly

Employers are now required to deal with employee requests, including appeals, within two months so ensure that responses are timely to make the whole process less onerous for both parties.

Consult fully

Given that consultation is now mandatory, do speak with an employee about your reasons and the practicalities before you refuse their request. This will help to make the process more transparent and adds extra emphasis on compromise, avoiding the risk of any discrimination claims, or a failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Employers can still refuse requests if there is genuine business reason which fits within the  statutory grounds for refusal, if there is a detrimental effect on the firm or their ability to meet customer demand. Training can even be offered to managers to help them handle requests reasonably and fairly in line with their legal duties to their teams.

Don’t ask for an explanation

Employees no longer have to explain within their application to their employers their reasons for making the request, or what affect their request might have on the wider firm.

Be adaptable

It is down to the leadership team and HR to consider what will and won’t work for the firm when it comes to flexible working. Naturally being as adaptable as possible for employees will help to create an inclusive and positive workplace culture with the benefit of positioning your firm as an inclusive employer and one that supports its people to balance their working lives – we know stress and burnout is still a challenge for the sector.

With the increasingly flexible way in which people are now working – hybrid working, reduced hours, compressed hours – the benefits can be felt by employers in helping them to remain compliant and retain talented employees.

Having the right legal tech in place

Having secure legal and business software in place at your law firm also ensures you’re prepared for flexible working and reduces cyber security risks to ensure practice, case and client data is kept safe and secure, wherever your employees are working.

It allows professionals flexibility to work from any approved device, while streamlining processes and reducing admin, to really support their choices to work how they work best without compromising on performance or security.

If you want to give provide your team with the freedom to work flexibly, they’ll naturally need to be able to access their case management software to complete case work and access documents at any time, as well as be able to shift between their client communicationscompliance and legal learning tools to carry out their roles and development effectively.

Having the right technology plays a pivotal role in complying with the flexible working changes whilst helping your firm to create a positive workplace environment where practitioners feel valued and supported.

For more information about how Access Legal supports law firms, visit::


Associate News is provided by Legal Futures Associates.
Find out about becoming an Associate


Loading animation