The statutory right to request a change to working arrangements in order to fulfil caring responsibilities is currently available only to employees with parental responsibility for a child aged under 6, or under 18 if the child is disabled.
With effect from 6 April 2007 the scope of this provision is extended to employees who have, or expect to have, caring responsibilities for an adult who is their spouse, partner, civil partner or relative or who lives at the same address as them. For these purposes a "relative" includes a mother, father, adopter, guardian, special guardian, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, uncle, aunt or grandparent. Step relatives and half-blood relatives are also included.
The regulations do not specify a particular level of "care" for adults, although the guidance provided indicates a wide interpretation. For example, "care" can legitimately include anything from help with dressing, bathing etc and nursing tasks such as changing dressings through to helping with paperwork or simply keeping an invalid company. Unless there is a suspicion of abuse of the right, employers are generally expected to take requests at face value and focus on whether or not the business can accommodate the changes requested.
In order to make a request to work flexibly, the employee must have at least 26 weeks' service and must not have made a previous request within the past 12 months. The process of application is exactly the same as for those making requests in relation to parental responsibilities. Employees must prepare a business case which explains how the flexibility requested can be accommodated and employers must give the request timely and proper consideration, but may refuse on a number of grounds. If an application to work flexibly is granted, it constitutes a permanent change to the employee's contract and any request for a further change is subject to the same qualification requirements and process.