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EDITIONS
Monday, 10 February, 2003, 11:01 GMT
Workers 'unaware' of childcare rights
father and baby
Many dads would want to spend more time at home
Many new parents are unaware of their rights to leave and flexible working arrangements to help with childcare, the Equal Opportunities Commission has said.

New rights introduced in April allow parents to ask employers for flexible working arrangements.

Employers have to give good reason for refusing requests and can face sanctions.

However, alarmingly, many people believe that employers will not look sympathetically on requests to work flexibly.

Shifting hours

From 6 April mothers and fathers of children aged under six will be legally allowed to request flexible working.

In addition, parents of disabled children under the age of 18 will be able to ask to shift hours.

As a result, up to 3.7 million parents will be able to put in requests for flexible working.

Employers will not be forced to accept a request for flexible working but they will have to give good reason, in writing for any refusal.

Refusals

If employers fail to give their reasons for refusal in writing they can be taken to an industrial tribunal.

But according to the EOC survey, only a fraction of employees are aware of their rights.

Only 22% of the 800 people surveyed were fully aware of the new right.

Almost half of those questioned said they believed their bosses would respond positively to requests for flexibility.

However, a substantial proportion, 18%, said that their boss would refuse a request.

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