The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has made a Freedom of Information request for information on the number of employment tribunal claims relating to the right to request flexible working – the figures are not specified in the annual statistics for employment tribunals and the EAT for 2010/11. The figures obtained by the CIPD reportedly show that out of a total 218,100 tribunal claims accepted in 2010/11, just 277 alleged that employers had failed to consider a request for flexible working seriously in accordance with the statutory procedure. The majority of these claims (229) were successfully conciliated by ACAS or settled out of court and, of the 48 that actually reached tribunal, just 10 were successful. The CIPD’s Freedom of Information request follows reports that the partially leaked Beecroft report, commissioned by David Cameron, calls for the abolition of the right to request flexible working as well as the removal of employee protection from unfair dismissal. The Government is currently committed to extending the right to request flexible working to all employees.
Commenting on the statistics, the CIPD stated that figures ‘demonstrate beyond any doubt that the fears expressed about the impact of extending the right to request flexible working are grossly exaggerated’. In its view, an extension of the law to all employees ‘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’.
The CIPD makes the point that employees, who are not necessarily parents, increasingly require flexible working arrangements. Accordingly, the right to request is, in the CIPD’s view, an example of ‘light-touch’ regulation that tends to support business performance. It is therefore urging the Government to stick to its plan to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees and to refrain from extending the three-year moratorium that exempts micro businesses and start-ups from new employment legislation.