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Flexible Working for All Employees in the UK

SMALL businesses will have to consider flexible working requests from all staff, not just those with children, from 2014.

The Government has announced plans to extend the right to change working hours and put the onus on employers to justify any refusal.

Currently, it is only parents who can ask for more flexible working patterns, and this can be refused due to business needs. However, under the new law, employers will have to show they dealt with the request in a “reasonable manner.”

Rules will also be introduced for the situation where there are competing requests by employees. Small businesses will not be able to claim they are exempt due to their size.

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “We support the concept of flexible working, but the proposals to extend the right to request to all workers could make it more difficult for employers to offer flexibility to employees who are parents or have caring duties.

“Unfortunately, the Government’s current proposals risk causing unnecessary friction between parents and employers, and raise unrealistic expectations about the level of flexibility most businesses will be able to accommodate.”

However, Kevin Green, chief executive at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said: “Businesses should consider more flexible working patterns for all their staff not because it’s seen as a benefit to workers but because there are solid, hard-headed business reasons for doing so.

“Our research found that employers can reduce absenteeism, improve staff morale and productivity, and are better able to attract and retain top talent if they adopt more flexible working arrangements.”

*The Glasgow Law Practice Business Support Service offers employment advice to employers of all sizes on the steps they need to take in dealing with flexible working requests, including the introduction of a Flexible Working Policy. Contact