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News - 6 April 2003

Flexible Working Regulations Likely to Be Extended to All

Even before the new rules on flexible working came into force (5th April) the government made it clear that they expect employers to extend the entitlement to all employees regardless of their circumstances.

Under the new rules employers must give serious consideration to requests by parents of children under 6 and disabled children under 18 to work hours that suit their responsibilities. If an employer is not prepared to accommodate a request from an employee they must give sound reasons. A simple refusal without justification is not sufficient. At the moment qualifying employees can ask for a change of both hours and place of work and the Trade & Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt has made it clear that she anticipates that employers will extend this right to all employees to avoid resentment from those that don't have children. She also warned that the government will be monitoring the success of the scheme over the next two to three years to ensure that the laws do not need to be extended to force compliance.

Employers will have to consider a variety of flexible working patterns including working from home, job sharing, working the same number of hours but on fewer days, time off during school holidays, flexitime and shift working. The employer can refuse a request but must be able to justify it with reference to a range of acceptable reasons including the burden of additional cost, difficulty of reorganising work amongst other staff or inadequate work demand during the requested hours.


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