New laws allowing workers in Great Britain more flexibility over when and where they work took effect on April 6th, 2024.

These new pieces of legislation – which include the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 and Employment Rights (Flexible Working) Act 2023 – will hopefully help older adults find a better work-life balance and juggle other responsibilities, such as caring.

Here, we take a look at the two main changes affecting over 50s.

Flexible working requests

Flexible working requests

From the 6th of April 2024, all employees have the statutory right to request flexible working arrangements from their first day of employment. Before this, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks to do so.

These requests can include changes to an employee’s…

  • Start and finish times
  • Working hours (for example, part-time or compressed hours)
  • Working days
  • Place of work (for example, working from home)

Now, employees can make two of these requests in any 12 months (up from one), and employers must deliver a decision within two months of submission, rather than three, as previously. Employees are also no longer required to explain how the proposed arrangement will affect the business.

Plus, if employers deny the request, they must consult with the employee and explain why. Before the 6th of April, they could reject requests without providing a reason. As Working Families explains, “[T]his will open up a meaningful dialogue between employees and employers which should lead to better outcomes.”

How to apply for flexible working

Making a formal request for flexible working (known as a ‘statutory application’) is fairly straightforward. 

You must send an email or letter to your employer explicitly saying that you’re making a statutory request for flexible working and include the details of the arrangement you have in mind. They may ask you to use a ‘standard form’ (which you can find a template for on the government website), so it’s worth asking about this beforehand.

Once your employer has received your request, they’ll discuss it with you before coming to a decision. If approved, your employer must change your contract to reflect the new arrangement. If rejected, you might be able to make a complaint at an employment tribunal, which you can find out more about on the government website.

The website also contains more information about making a formal request for flexible working – including other details to include in your application.

Carer’s leave requests

Carer’s leave requests

The other main change that came into effect last month that’ll benefit many workers over 50 is the new right for employees to take unpaid carer’s leave.

Now, any employee is entitled to carer’s leave to provide or arrange care for a dependent who needs it because of…

  • Age
  • A disability
  • An injury/illness that’s likely to need care for more than three months

‘Dependents’ can include anyone who relies on the employee for care, not just family members. 

When it comes to carer’s leave, employees are allowed to take a period of one week’s worth of work every 12 months. For example, if you usually work four days a week, you can take four days leave, and you don’t have to use them consecutively.

Like the right to request flexible working arrangements, employees are entitled to carer’s leave from day one of their employment. Though employers cannot refuse a request for carer’s leave, they can ask the employee to delay it if the planned dates would seriously disrupt the company.

Carer’s UK, who’ve campaigned on this issue, describe the measures as a “firm step forward” to help millions of people balance work and care.

How to take carer’s leave

Unlike applying for flexible working, requests for carer’s leave don’t need to be in writing. However, you do need to give your employer notice.

The length of your notice period will depend on how much leave you want to take. When requesting a day or half a day, you must give at least three days’ notice. If you want to take any more than that, your notice period must be at least twice as long as the time requested.

For example, if you want to take two days of carer’s leave, you must give your employer at least four days’ notice. Even if the requested time contains a half day, your notice period must be in whole days. 

If it’s an emergency, however, you aren’t required to give any notice. You also don’t need to give the reasons why your dependent needs care.

You can learn more about carer’s leave and how to apply on the government website.

Final thoughts…

Nowadays, more people are staying in employment for longer, whether for financial reasons or the desire to reap the other benefits of work (such as social connections and a sense of purpose). 

Hopefully, these new measures will help over 50s find a better work-life balance and juggle caring responsibilities, leading to more fulfilling and less stressful careers.

For more work-related advice, head over to our careers section.

Are you considering applying for flexible working arrangements or taking carer’s leave? If so, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments below.