More flexible hours for working parents

Government proposals to allow around 3.8 million working parents to request more flexible working hours from their employers, were announced by the Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt this week.

If accepted the plans will become law in April 2003.

Under the recommendations, employers have to consider requests for flexible working opportunities from parents who have worked for them for at least six months and who have children under the age of six. The cut-off age for parents of disabled children is expected to be 18.

The employee must make the request in writing to their employer, which should be followed up by a meeting. The employer must assess the case on a practical, business level as to how the flexible working arrangements could be implemented. The DTI estimates that approximately 80 per cent of requests will be settled in these meetings.

If an employer declines a request, they must fully explain in writing the business reasons behind the decision. Employees may appeal on a negative decision, using grievance procedures, and ultimately by going to an employment tribunal. The DTI estimates that about 1 per cent of requests will go this far.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) believes the proposals will cause unnecessary worry for small businesses.

“More employment rules mean more cost, bureaucracy and threat of penalties,” said the FPB’s head of policy, Garry Parker. The new measures will cause difficulties for employers, added to the extended maternity leave and paternity leave recently introduced.

The FPB is also concerned that the “informal” and flexible working relations which exist in small businesses may be further ruined by the possibility of the threat of more tribunals.

See also: How do I respond to a flexible working request?

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Flexible Working

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