The Employment Act 2002 introduced a statutory right for employees to request flexible working. Flexible working can include changes to the number of hours worked, work patterns or work location. The right applies only to employees who have worked for the employer for 26 weeks and who have a parental responsibility for a child under the age of 6 years old.

The request must follow a statutory procedure and can only be turned down for specified business reasons. If the request is accepted, a permanent change to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment usually follows, with no right to revert to the original contract unless otherwise agreed with the employer.

New legislation

As from April 2009, the right to request flexible working will be extended to parents of children up to the age of 16.

Effect on employers

The new regime increases the number of employees who are eligible to apply for a change in their working arrangements. Employers should be prepared for a significant rise in requests and ensure that appropriate systems are in place in order to respond to requests effectively.