Flexible working rights extended to all

Man working at home The government says flexible working boosts a business's productivity

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Every employee now has the right to request flexible working hours after the government extended the right previously reserved for carers and those looking after children.

As part of the right, employees can expect their request to be considered "in a reasonable manner" by employers.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said 20 million people now had the right to ask to work flexibly.

Unions and employment groups welcomed the move.

The change in the law, which affects everyone with more than six months' service, comes less than a week after the government said it would ban employers from stopping staff with zero-hours contracts - under which employees' hours are not guaranteed - seeking extra work elsewhere.

"All the evidence shows that it is good for the individuals... but also that it boosts the productivity"

'Morale boost'

The government expects the extension of flexible working rights to be of particular interest to older workers approaching retirement and to young workers looking for additional training while they work.

"Modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow," said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

"It's about time we brought working practices bang up-to-date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families."

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development said the change in the law was recognition of the growing importance of flexible working for both employees and employers.

"Employers increasingly recognise the strong business case for flexible working, including enhanced employee engagement and the attraction and retention of a more diverse workforce," said the institute's chief executive Susannah Clements.

The TUC welcomed the move, but said more needed to be done to ensure that employees' requests were given fair consideration.

"When you make a flexible working request you also need a fair hearing, so we should improve things further by giving people a right to challenge an employer's reason for rejecting a request," said the TUC's general secretary Frances O'Grady.

'Negative dynamic'

Many businesses already offer flexible working to their staff.

"We know from our own membership that more than three quarters of our members offer flexible working but there will be a small number of small businesses who just will not be able to do that, whether it's through cost or just from balancing their teams," Liesl Smith from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) told the BBC.

The FSB has expressed concerns about the additional administrative burden the right to request flexible working might place on small businesses.

It has said the right could introduce a "negative dynamic" into the workplace, particularly in the case of unsuccessful requests.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Great in theory and in many places, great in practice. However, for small companies and departments that have operational commitments, this could cause a nightmare. Then, if you can only allow it for one or two people, how long before the others complain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Flexible working keeps me sane, start earlier two days a week so I can be with my children. Regular hours the rest of the week. Makes my employer far more attractive than others and ensures that my employer also attracts and retains the best talent. Others in the business hate early starts so cover the later hours. Much harder though for a small business. Bring on 21st Century working!

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    We all need flexibility now and then.
    But let us remember that one person's flexibility is another person's nightmare. Customers don't stop wanting and needing things because someone else has had a bit of bad luck. Business can't just stop. Some manager somewhere will have to figure out what the heck to do to fill the gap, often at short notice and under a lot of stress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Why does there need to be a change in the law for this ?

    What's to stop any employee simply asking their boss/employer if they can work flexible hours anyway ? You don't need a new law giving someone to "right to request flexible hours" - just ask, because all they can say is no, and even with the new law your company can still stay no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Forget how many hours, forget where the place of work should be. As a freelancer my clients only concern is can he deliver, and deliver when agreed. If so many more of us worked to milestones we'd separate the skilled from the spongers at the click of the switch and the economy become that much more productive.


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