New flexible working laws may be delayed, but employers should still consider requests.
Despite widespread press reports that business secretary Lord Mandelson planned to confirm that new family-friendly proposals, announced six months ago, are to be put on hold, he did not prove so robust in his views when appearing before a select committee.
Even so, it is clear that these proposals are under review and that a postponement in the current climate is a real possibility.
Since 2003, the right to request flexible working has been available to employees with more than six months' service to care for a child under the age of six (or 18 if the child is disabled).
This right was extended to carers of adults in 2007, although certain relationship criteria must first be satisfied. The extension of the right has nonetheless been an objective of the government for some time.
In November 2007, Imelda Walsh, Sainsbury's HR director, undertook an independent review into the extension of this right to parents of older children. Her recommendations were issued in May 2008 and were accepted by the government.
However, following last week's confirmation that the proposals are to be reviewed closely, it appears the government's announcement of these new rights back in May was premature.
The estimated 4.5 million parents of children up to the age of 16, who were destined to be given the right to request flexible working from next April, may not benefit from it.
Never mind employee representatives' dismay at this news, the reaction of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development perhaps best reflects the true implications, stating that this move "sends out completely the wrong messa