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Consultation begins on flexible working

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The government is to investigate ways to help employers deal with flexible working requests more easily, as part of its consultation published today (26 August).

The consultation forms part of the Walsh Review, undertaken by Sainsbury’s HR director Imelda Walsh, which recommended that the right to request flexible working was extended to parents with children who are 16 and under.

Employment relations minister Pat McFadden said the consultation would seek views from business and suggest ways to reduce paperwork involved with flexible working requests.

“The right to request flexible working has worked well because it helps employees to balance their home and work lives, but at the same time gives employers the right to say no where there are legitimate business concerns,” he said.

The chief executive of Working Families, Sarah Jackson, welcomed the consultation:

“A request to work flexibly brings with it an opportunity for the employer to take a fresh look at how they deliver their goods or services. It can raise questions about how a team might work more effectively or efficiently – which could be especially useful in the current climate.”

The consultation will also consider whether to scrap the requirement that employers write formally to staff to advise their request has been accepted.

However, Jackson warned that employers must be careful about reducing paperwork which is there to protect the interests both of employer and employee.

“Verbal agreements can be open to misinterpretation, and when the future of somebody’s job, or the success of someone’s business, is at stake it is really important to have everything clearly recorded. The time-consuming aspect of considering a request to work flexibly is not really the paperwork – it is the thought which needs to go into establishing an arrangement which will work for everyone.”

An awareness-raising campaign will be launched by the government soon, to target groups who are unaware of their right to request flexible working, as well as to help businesses to deal with requests more simply.

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