In the United Kingdom, the right to request flexible working arrangements has been extended to parents with children up to the age of 16 years. Previously the legislation was available to parents with children under the age of six. It is also available for parents of children under 18 where the child is disabled and for carers of certain adults. This means that businesses are required to consider flexible-working requests from more of their employees, a change that is likely to considerably boost home working.
Under the legislation employer are obliged to "seriously consider" all applications and reject them only if there are "good business reasons for doing so". Other eligibility criteria for employee parents include working for their employer for 26 weeks continuously prior to their request and having not made a request in the last 12 months. If their request was granted, employees could build their hours around their out-of-work commitments.
The recent extension means a further 4.5 million parents are eligible, in addition to the six million parents and carers who were already covered by the law. The change is designed to make working conditions more family-friendly, stated the UK government.
The government stressed that flexible working has business benefits as well, including increased productivity and reduced costs for recruitment due to increased staff loyalty. “The business benefits of flexible working are well documented and this remains the case in tougher economic times,” said employment relations minister Pat McFadden, in a statement.
Mr McFadden added that firms can still refuse if they have legitimate business concerns, but that more than 95% of all requests from parents for flexible working were approved as employers increasingly recognise the benefits.
According to European working conditions surveys, more UK workers said their working hours could fit family/social commitment well or very well (85% versus 79% EU average). The surveys also showed that 93% of UK employers now offer at least one flexible working practice, 57% offer at least three andaround half offered the right to request flexible working arrangements to all employees.