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Annie Hayes

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CIPD urges Brown to extend flexible working to all

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The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) welcomes a proposal to extend the right to request flexible working to parents of older children, but say reforms could go further.

A new government-commissioned review by Imelda Walsh, the HR director for Sainsburys, is expected to recommend raising the age limit to 12 years-old, even as high as 16 according to The Financial Times. If the plans go through, this will extend rights to another 2.6 million parents at least.

Parents of children aged under six (or 18 if disabled) are already entitled to ask their employers for part-time and flexible working hours.

Under existing laws, about 6 million people are entitled to ask their bosses for flexible hours, and employers must give a good reason for refusal. Most requests are reportedly granted.

The CIPD is calling on the government to be even bolder and extend the right to request to all workers.

Mike Emmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, said: “We wholly support moves to extend the ‘right to request’ to more parents. But the government should be bolder still and extend the right to all workers. The danger with ever larger groups of people entitled to request flexible working, and a smaller number not entitled to do so, is that divisions will grow up in the workplace.”

Emmott added that many enlightened employers were already allowing employees to work flexibly, regardless of their family status, and said an extension of the right to request to all workers would level the playing field, without compelling employers to offer flexible working where this is incompatible with business needs.

“The government can rightly claim credit for the light-touch ‘right to request’ legislation that has encouraged employers to consider employee requests without the need to wield the big stick of compulsion. However, it is a shame that a desire to appease the most vocal in the business lobby appears likely to limit the new extension to flexible working rights to parents of slightly older children than at present.

“John Hutton gave a clear public signal in February that he wanted Imelda Walsh’s review to only recommend a limited extension, so it is unsurprising that this now seems to be what will come out of the review.”

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Annie Hayes

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