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Government still plans to extend flexible working rights to all employees, despite regulation repeal

Out-Law News | 18 Mar 2011 | 4:47 pm | 2 min. read

The Government still plans to allow all workers the right to request flexible working, despite repealing regulations that are about to come into force which would have slightly extended the number of people eligible for that right.

Employees with children under the age of 17, and those with disabled children under the age of 18, can currently request the right to work flexibly. Under a change planned to take effect on 6 April, that was to be extended to all people with children under the age of 18. The Government said today that that extension would be scrapped.

Business minister Mark Prisk told the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) that the regulations implementing those plans would be repealed.

"We will ... withdraw the proposed extension of the right to request flexible working to parents of 17 year olds," Prisk told an FSB conference in Liverpool today. "We remain absolutely committed to promoting flexible working – but we know, because you tell us, that you don’t like frequent incremental changes to employment law."

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) told OUT-LAW.COM that previously-trailed plans to extend the right to all employees were going ahead.

"That is a coalition commitment and we will be consulting on how best to take that forward," the spokesman said.

He said that the repeal of the new regulations was being done to reduce the number of incremental changes to law that he said businesses had told the Government that they did not like.

Prisk also said that the Government was conducting an overall review of employment law, and that the review was aimed at creating "maximum flexibility for employers and employees within a competitive business environment".

He also said that the Government was adopting a much more passive stance towards the implementation of EU directives.

"[We] will stop putting British businesses at a disadvantage to their European competitors by over interpreting EU directives," he said. "We have put a stop to this goldplating by introducing 'copy out': no more interpretation, but a straight transposition of the rules into domestic law. Whitehall has enough to do, without embellishing on the rules from Brussels."

Prisk said that Business Secretary Vince Cable planned a review of 22,000 laws applying to business, and planned to exempt companies with fewer than 250 employees from new regulations for three years.

"I promised bold action to remove barriers to growth. Today, I am setting out how this will happen in the vital area of business regulation," said Cable in a statement. "A moratorium for the smallest and genuine start-up companies from regulations alongside the removal of obligations for flexible working and giving time off to train will be a real boost to businesses. It will let them concentrate on growing their company, not thinking about dealing with the latest request from Government."

The Government also plans to introduce a mechanism to ensure that new laws are reviewed to see if they are working, called sunset clauses.

"New regulations will be reviewed after five years to see if they are effective, if they are still necessary, and whether the costs to business can be reduced," said a statement from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. "If they are found to be working as expected, the regulation will be extended for a further five year period."