The right to request flexible working is extended to an extra 4.5 million parents

The right to request flexible working has been extended to an extra 4.5 million parents with children aged 16 and under.

The right to ask employers for flexible working hours previously only applied to parents of children up to the age of six or disabled children aged up to 18.

Pat McFadden, employment relations minister, said: “This is about balancing work and family life. Both workers and employers have felt the benefits of flexible working since we first introduced the right to request.

“Fewer mothers change jobs when they return to work meaning greater continuity for businesses and more employees have been able to work hours which help them cope with parental responsibilities.

“Firms can still say no if they have legitimate business concerns, but more than 95% of all requests for flexible working from working parents and carers are now accepted, as employers recognise the benefits more and more.”

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The Institute of Payroll Professionals (IPP) said that many UK organisations will be caught short by the onset of new flexible working regulations. Karen Thomson, IPP associate director of policy and research, said: “The new law is likely to put increasing pressure on employers to consider flexible working if employees with young children request it. However, while the benefits of adopting flexible working practices are clear in terms of increased productivity and employee satisfaction, the challenge for management is to ensure that it is able to manage the payroll of a disparate workforce.”

Kathleen Healy, partner in the employment, pensions and benefits practice at law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, said: “When deciding whether to allow an employee to work flexibly, employers may be reluctant to accommodate someone with a teenage child than someone with, for example, a young baby, as they may feel the person’s needs are less pressing. Remember that this will not be an acceptable justification. The decision must be based purely on objective business grounds, and not on employees’ personal circumstances.”