Employment Relations Minister Edward Davey has today set out plans to make it easier for people to balance work and family life, signalling the Government’s intention to bring forward ambitious proposals to create more flexible, family friendly workplaces. Audrey Williams, partner and head of discrimination law at International law firm Eversheds comments:

“Today’s announcement on flexible leave will be controversial. Although the immediate impact of the change will be limited to parents of older children, the government’s longer term plans to extend the rights to all staff from day one of employment will be welcomed by some but not others. Both the Queen’s Speech and the coalition programme mentioned plans to “remove barriers” and “extend” flexible working rights.

“Millions of parents already enjoy the right to request flexible working – such as changing shifts, varying start and finish times, working from home or shifting to part-time hours. Employers must seriously consider such a request, although they are within their rights to turn it down for sound business reasons. However, currently, only parents of children under 16 and carers who have at least 26 weeks of service can make a flexible working request.

“Today’s announcement makes it clear that this stage change will be introduced in phases (as advocated by the Conservatives in their manifesto) rather than in a single step (as advocated by the Liberal Democrats in their manifesto).”