From April, employees with children under the age of six will be entitled to apply for flexible working and have their employer seriously consider the request. This is likely to lead to staff seeking part-time and flexi-time work patterns, job-sharing, termtime-only working and annual hours contracts. It remains to be seen how effective the new right will be.
Employers must go through a rigorous procedure in assessing whether a proposed working arrangement is practicable, backed up by a right to complain to an employment tribunal. There will be limited scope to challenge a management decision backed by a 'business case' that refuses a request.
The maximum compensation for an employee will be eight weeks' pay (with a pounds 260 weekly maximum). In practice, the right will probably be used mostly by women as a first stage in claiming the more powerful remedies available for sex discrimination.