In April 2003 the government introduced the "right to request flexible working". This did not create a right to work flexibly or part-time. It simply provided a statutory framework through which a request from an eligible employee to work flexibly must be considered.
The introduction of the right to request flexible working was initially not well received by employers, many of whom expressed concern that large numbers of employees would apply and that it would be difficult to refuse a request. To date it seems that, generally speaking, the practical experience of employers has not substantiated these fears. Advantages of flexible working schemes for employers include: (i) higher productivity; (ii) retention of key staff; (iii) the ability to attract new and well-qualified employees; (iv) avoidance of compulsory redundancies; and (v) reduction of office costs.
The concept of flexible working has been further promoted by the implementation of the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations (the "APL Regulations") in April 2010. As the "stay at home mum" becomes less common, working parents require more control and choice as to how they manage their childcare arrangements. These regulations allow working fathers to take up to six months' paternity leave when a mother has returned to work without using up her full entitlement to maternity leave. The government proposes to begin consultation on providing employees with even more flexibility for shared parental leave, although it is likely to be some time before any further measures are introduced.
The APL Regulations also apply to male or female employees where their partner is the child’s adopter and to female employees in a same-sex relationship where their partner gives birth to or adopts the child. For ease of reference, this Insight refers to working fathers and working mothers, but those references apply as appropriate to the relevant partner in an adoption or a same sex-relationship or where the male employee is not the child’s father but is the spouse or partner of the mother.
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