By Maximilian Clarke

From nearly 250,000 employment tribunal claims from employees alleging their employers had failed to observe flexible working regulations, just 48 reached tribunal stage, and of these, just 10 were successful.

The figures, published by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) and made available following a freedom of information act, suggest that initial fears over disruption to work and an explosion in costly tribunals were misplaced.

“These figures are hardly calculated to keep employers awake at night,” commented Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at CIPD. “They demonstrate beyond any doubt that the fears expressed about the impact of extending the right to request flexible working are grossly exaggerated. The right to request is not a burden on business but an example of ‘light-touch’ regulation that is more likely to support - rather than inhibit - business performance.

“The reality is that businesses of all sizes are way ahead of the critics in the way they have responded to the legislation. An extension of the law is highly unlikely to lead to an avalanche of requests because most employers already recognise that flexible working is an integral part of the modern workplace and thus are happy to consider requests from any employee, even beyond the statutory minimum. Flexible working is not just for parents:
the UK’s aging workforce means older workers increasingly have caring responsibilities and will want more flexible routes to retirement such as reducing hours or job sharing, while flexibility is also key to helping people off sick with health problems make phased and lasting returns to work.”

The CIPD is urging Government to stick to its current implementation timetable for extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and refrain from extending the three year moratorium that exempts micro businesses from new employment legislation.

“The current calls to curtail or undermine employment regulation are a distraction from the debate we ought to be having about how to drive economic growth,” continues Emmott. “The implausible equation between flexible working and burdens on business seems to be born of a refusal to accept that we live in a developed twenty-first century economy that is heavily dependent on the skills and commitment of its workforce. Making it easier to dismiss workers without good cause or watering down rights to flexible working is more likely to harm the prospects of UK plc by fostering the kind of crude and out-dated attitudes to employment relationships that will put employees off from going the extra mile.”

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