More working parents get the right to request flexible hours

Parents with children aged up to 16 have the right to ask their employers for flexible working patterns as from 6 April.

Previously only parents with children up to the age of six or disabled children aged up to 18 have had the right to make the request.

The change to the rules now takes the total number of parents who can ask their employers for flexible working hours from 6 million up to more than 10 million.

Employers are obliged to consider seriously any applications and can only reject them if there are good business reasons for doing so.

The law gives all employees with children aged 16 and under and who have worked for a company for more than six months the right to ask for flexible hours.

Flexible working can mean working from home, working part-time, working agreed hours over fewer days, term-time working or job-sharing.

Employers can agree if they think that the new arrangements won’t have a detrimental effect on their businesses. Employees only have the right to ask for child-friendly working arrangements; they are not guaranteed their requests will be granted.

Harriet Harman, the Minister for Women and Equality, said: “Children don’t stop needing their parents’ time when they reach their sixth birthday. As any parent knows, older children going through the teenage years need just as much support and guidance.”

The CBI, however, questioned whether now is the most appropriate moment to introduce the new regulation.

John Cridland, the CBI’s deputy director general, said: “Although we accept the extension of the right to request flexible working, we don't think now, in a recession, is the best time to implement it.”