Government to extend flexible working rights to staff with children up to age of 16

The government has announced that the right to request flexible working will be extended to staff with children up to the age of 16.

Business secretary John Hutton has accepted the recommendations of Sainsbury’s HR director Imelda Walsh’s report into the extension of the right to request. An extra 4.5 million parents are expected to benefit from the move – likely to come into force in April 2009.

Walsh has spent the past six months leading an independent review into how the right can be extended. It is currently available to parents with children aged six or under, and registered carers. She was widely expected to take the most conservative of the options available to her, advising the government only to include parents with children aged up to 12.

She also recommended that the changes be implemented in one go, rather than a staged introduction, to “avoid creating confusion for business and employees”.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber welcomed the announcement but insisted unions would carry on campaigning for the right to request to be extended to all employees.

Walsh also said that more work should be done to raise awareness of flexible working and that employers would benefit from more guidance on how to deal with flexible working requests.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) earlier this week claimed that Walsh’s review had lacked independence from the government.

Earlier this month, Personnel Today revealed that Walsh’s review and the ensuing debate over flexible working legislation was clouded by the fact that many people were not taking up their right to request for fear of it damaging their career prospects.

In this clip, Kirsty Ayre, employment lawyer, talks about the current situation on flexible working, inlcuding the fact that most employers currently grant requests and if you refuse a request the main risk is not a claim under the flexible working regulations but a claim for discrimination.

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