At present, only parents with a child under 6 (or under 18 if the child is disabled) and carers of adults, have a statutory right to make a request for flexible working. Employers are under a duty to consider such requests and may only reject them for one or more of the business reasons provided for in the legislation.

Despite speculation of a delay to the Government's planned extension to the right to request flexible working to carers of older children, amending Regulations have just been published. The Regulations confirm that the right will be extended to parents of children under 17 years of age from 6th April 2009.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Regulations states:

"Extending the right to request flexible working to parents of older children will introduce greater fairness and equity amongst working parents. The policy aims to provide parents of children aged 16 and under with the same choices in balancing work and childcare responsibilities through flexible working as are available to parents of children under six and disabled children, whilst ensuring that businesses have the flexibility to refuse requests on business grounds."

It goes on to estimate that the change will result in 308,000 additional requests for flexible working, of which the Government estimates 270,000 will be accepted.

Employers should therefore ensure that their Flexible Working Policies are updated to reflect this change, from 6th April.