The Government has confirmed that it has what it calls “ambitious” plans to extend flexible working rights for working parents.

In the short term, from April 2011, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all parents of children under 18, which will add about 300,000 employees to those already eligible to request flexible working.

However the Government has also launched a consultation to consider extending the right to all employees and launching a new system of flexible parental leave.

Employment Relations Minister Edward Davey said:

Edward Davey

We want to help parents and create a fairer, family friendly society. We will be launching a consultation later this year to make sure the law better supports real families juggling work and family life, and the businesses that employ them.

This immediate change will give parents of all children regardless of age the same right to request flexible working. It will also make it simpler for employers and employees to identify whether they are eligible to make a request.

The plans we’ll unveil later this year are much more ambitious but these interim measures will help us learn valuable lessons and are an important first step.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone added:

Lynne Featherstone

A family-friendly workplace is a business-friendly workplace. Companies are missing out the skills and talents of too many people who are forced to choose between raising a family and having a job, so we will be working with businesses to change this in a way that will make life better for employers, employees and the economy.

This will be a long process involving wide-ranging change, and today’s measures are the first stage in that journey.