All employees now have the right to request flexible working hours. From today, employers are bound by law to consider all requests “in a reasonable manner”.

These rights were previously reserved for carers and those looking after children.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that 20 million people now have the right to ask for flexible working hours.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“Modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow.

“It’s about time we brought working practices bang up-to-date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families.”

Trade unions have welcomed the move, but the TUC have said that more needs to be done to ensure that employees’ requests are given fair consideration.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of TUC, said:

“When you make a flexible working request you also need a fair hearing, so we should improve things further by giving people a right to challenge an employer’s reason for rejecting a request.”

But the Federation of Small Businesses has expressed concern over the increased administrative pressure that these new obligations could have on smaller businesses.

Lisle Brown from the FSB told the BBC:

“We know from our own membership that more than three quarters of our members offer flexible working but there will be a small number of small businesses who just will not be able to do that, whether it’s through cost or just from balancing their teams.”

Image by Matt Madd