The new right for parents to request flexible working under the Employment Act will not weed out employers who see it as an inconvenience to be avoided
There has been much debate about the flexible working regulations, with some employers - particularly those in smaller businesses - arguing that they will have difficulty implementing the legislation. In reality, it has such a limited scope that it is unlikely to have a dramatic impact on the workplace.
The new regulations - which came into force on 6 April - give parents of children under six years old or disabled children under 18 the right to apply for flexible working, provided they have completed at least 26 weeks' service for their employer.
Overall, workers have grasped the fact that the legislation does not automatically give them the right to work flexibly, but employers must give serious consideration to all requests.
Flexible working is not a new phenomenon for UK business and, generally speaking, employers able to offer flexible working arrangements already do. So in practical terms, it is unlikely that the new legislation will dramatically increase the number of people working flexibly.
The legislation has been drafted in the employers' favour, only providing the right to ask for flexible working, and not the right to work flexibly. In its current form, it will not weed out employers who see flexible working as an inconvenience, as it provides nine grounds on which they can turn down a request.
For businesses that cannot accommodate flexible working, the regulations will simply mean jumping through more administrative hoops before turning down the request. The proposals could be viewed as a mere token gesture for working parents.
The legislation also ignores a large proportion of the workforce - those without children. It does not even include all parents, just those with children of a certain age. Surprisingly, parents of school-aged children have been excluded, despite an arguably greater need for flexibility as they are governed by the constraints of the school day.
Although the provision for flexible working is limited, employers should not use this as an excuse to ignore the new legislation altogether. They need to check that the new pr