The government has begun consultation on the proposed extension of the right to request flexible working to parents of children aged up to 16. In addition, the consultation will explore ways of making it easier to deal with requests, reducing paperwork and increasing awareness of the right.


Views will be sought from a wide range of parties, including employer and employee representatives, parents, unions, business and family organisations. If you want to take part in the consultation then please use the link below:

The consultation process will end on 18 November 2008 and we will report to you when the government have decided how they will proceed.


The right to request flexible working was introduced under the Employment Act 2002 and came into force on 6 April 2003.

Currently, an employee has the right to request flexible working where they have responsibility for children under the age of 6 (or 18 if their children are disabled). Since 6 April 2007 some employees who care for adults have also gained the right to request.

An eligible employee can request a change to their working hours and times and to work from a different location (e.g. from home). For example, employees may request annualised hours, compressed hours, flexi-time, homeworking, job-sharing, self-rostering, shift-working, staggered hours and term-time working among others.

The statutory procedure requires the employee to make a written application, the employer must then arrange a meeting within 28 days and give a decision within 14 days. If the request is rejected the employer must also provide an appeal procedure.

The Prime Minister announced on 6 November 2007 that the government wanted to extend the right to request flexible working further, this time to parents of older children. Ms Imelda Walsh, HR Director of J Sainsbury PLC, led an independent review to consider this proposed extension. Ms Walsh published her review on 15 May 2008, recommending the right to request be extended to parents of children under 16 (when currently it is only available to parents of children under 6). The government has introduced this consultation, on 26 August 2008, to consider the recommendations of the independent review.

The consultation will try and raise awareness of flexible working amongst employees. With this aim in mind the government will soon launch an awareness raising campaign to target groups with low knowledge or who are unaware of their right to request flexible working, like fathers and carers.

Another goal of the consultation is to make requests quicker and simpler for employers to deal with. It will seek to boost knowledge of the range of free tools available and will consider whether to scrap the requirement that employers write formally to staff to advise their request has been accepted.