Government to delay extension to the right to request flexible working

The government has announced it will delay regulations extending the right to request flexible working to parents of 17 year olds for all businesses, which were scheduled to be introduced on 6 April.

Working parents currently have the right to request flexible working if they have a child aged 16 and under, and until their child is 18 if the child is in receipt of disability living allowance.

The measure has been identified by business secretary Vince Cable as part of the Growth Review that will allow businesses to grow, and will allow businesses breathing space in the current economic climate.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive officer of Working Families, said: “How disappointing that parental rights are downgraded during difficult economic times – what does this say about family-friendly Britain? 

“The extension of the right to request flexible working this April corrected an anomaly which affects only a very small number of parents. Any parent who needs flexible working for a teenager of 17 is likely to be dealing with a real crisis and any employer which refuses even to discuss flexible working in such circumstances is not a good one. 

“Parents in such circumstances may have to choose between supporting their child and staying in employment. Fairness for all employees is more important than ever during a recession: employee commitment and performance is critical to every business.”

Ben Willmott, senior policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), added: “While we are disappointed with the decision to repeal the extension of the right to request flexible working to more parents, we are heartened the government has reiterated its commitment to an early consultation on the extension of the right to request to all workers.

“Nonetheless, we will continue to press the government to proceed at the earliest opportunity with the light-touch regulation necessary to extend the right to request to all workers. This is little more than a nudge for some employers to introduce a measure that is already proving to make sound business sense for many more.

“We understand the argument that multiple changes to flexible working regulations are not helpful. But this limited repeal must not be seen as conceding the ill-conceived belief that flexible working can only ever be seen as a regulatory burden and a cost.

“Millions of workers already benefit from flexible working well beyond anything enshrined in legislation, because employers in firms, large and small, see the benefits they derive from a more flexible, more engaged, more diverse and more effective workforce as a result.

“This is true now, at a time when jobs are scarce and unemployment is high, and will come into even sharper focus as the economy recovers and competition for talent grows. Regardless of legislation, many employers will sensibly continue to develop flexible and family friendly cultures in their firms, and will be better placed to attract and retain the skills and experience they need as the labour market tightens.

“Recognising employees have lives outside of work, and seeking to accommodate those lives where business requirements allow is not a cost, it is a sensible employee retention and motivation strategy that can boost organisational performance and economic growth.”

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