The right to request flexible working has been extended to parents of children aged under 18 and will come into force on 6 April 2011.

Currently the right applies to parents of children aged under 17, as well as parents of disabled children aged under 18 and carers of certain adults.

When he announced the plans in September, employment relations minister Edward Davey explained that the Government wants to create a fairer and more family-friendly society, while making it simpler for both employers and staff to identify whether or not they are eligible to make a flexible working request.

The Government will also publish proposals on extending the right to request flexible working to all employees in January 2011, with the consultation to be completed in March 2011. It is likely that this will be implemented in April 2012.

Bar Huberman, employment law editor at XpertHR, explained: “Employers should ensure that by 6 April 2011 they amend their policies and procedures that relate to the right to request flexible working to bring them up to date, by changing the eligibility requirements in their flexible working policy.

“In addition to the flexible working policy, employers should consider other policies that might be affected, for example their retirement policy or maternity policy that set out the procedure for reintroduction to the workplace following maternity leave. Employers should ensure that all individuals who deal with requests for flexible working are brought up to date on the changes, by updating training.”

The TUC has welcomed the extension of flexible working to parents of children under 18 but says it will continue to press for a universal right to request.