UK law relating to flexible working undergoes its biggest ever change today, with the legal right to request to work flexibly being extended to an extra 4.5 million employees. The addition sees parents with children under 16 being given the legal right, extended from only parents having children under six.
“Children don't stop needing their parents' time when they reach their sixth birthday, as any parent knows, older children going through the teenage years need just as much support and guidance,” said Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality.
Harman said the government would, “continue to work with business to ensure that families continue to have real choices about how they live their lives, at the same time as making the economy strong and competitive."
Businesses should already have processes in place to deal with any significant increase in requests for flexible working, and also need to plan for increased IT support if requests are granted.
A TUC spokesman commented that the new law, “is not only important in allowing individuals to better manage work with other commitments but as research has shown, it enables businesses to operate more effectively in a changed society.”
Working Families chief executive Sarah Jackson said: "It is great that parents of older children will have the opportunity to request flexible working. The conflict that often seems to exist between family and work is so unnecessary and counterproductive.”
To back up the move, the Government Equalities Office commissioned a survey on flexible working attitudes, which showed that parents also saw the business benefits of flexible working. Just under 60 per cent of parents said it would improve staff morale, 40 per cent that it would reduce absenteeism, and more than a quarter said it would attract talented staff and improve staff retention.
“Ultimately, we believe the right to request should be extended to all workers, as it is only then we will see the kind of culture change, investment in technology and development of employment policies and practices, that are needed to make it more widespread,” said the TUC.