FIRMS will be asked to suggest ways of reducing paperwork involved in dealing with requests from staff to work flexible hours, the Government announced today.

Ministers said they wanted to explore ways of making it easier for companies whose employees take up their right to ask for flexible working.

The move follows plans to extend the right to request flexible working from parents of younger children to workers with children aged under 16.

Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden said: “The right to request flexible working has worked well because it is light-touched, helping employees to balance their home and work lives but giving employers the right to say no where there are legitimate business concerns.

“Parenting requirements don’t end as children get older and sometimes they can become more time consuming. That is why we think the time is right to extend this successful scheme and help parents of older children access the flexibility they need.”

The consultation will also consider ways to raise awareness of the right to request flexible working among employees and to boost knowledge of the range of free tools available to make dealing with requests quicker and simpler for businesses. has online forms that employers can use to deal with flexible working requests.

It also provides guidance which can help save time, money and stress and avoid businesses paying for professional external advice.

The consultation will also consider whether to scrap the requirement that employers write formally to staff to advise their request has been accepted.

The Government will soon launch an awareness-raising campaign to target groups with low knowledge or who are unaware of their right to request flexible working, like fathers and carers.

It also aims to raise awareness for businesses about how to make dealing with requests simpler.

The consultation will involve all interested stakeholders, including employer and employee forums.