Yesterday, the government announced that the right of a parent to request a change in his or her working pattern (otherwise known as a request for flexible working) will be extended to parents with children under the age of 18 from the 6 April 2011.
At present, the right only extends to parents with children under the age of 17, or who are under the age of 18 but disabled, and to carers of certain adults.
The extension of this right to request comes as part of a series of family friendly initiatives by the coalition government and it is thought that the change will benefit an estimated 300,000 people. The government has stated that one of the principal reasons for the change is to create a fairer and more family orientated society, while making it simpler for both employers and employees to identify whether or not they are eligible to make a flexible working request.
It is anticipated that this right will soon be extended to all employees regardless of whether they have children, and a consultation process on how this will be introduced is expected to be initiated later this year.
In promoting this change to the law, the government has pointed to evidence that employers who already allow all employees to make flexible working applications have generally reported favourable results in terms of staff retention and morale.