New figures obtained by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) show that the right to request flexible working is not a burden on business.

Out of a total of 218,100 employment Tribunal complaints in 2010/11, just 277 claimed that employers had failed to observe the flexible working Regulations. The majority (229) of those claims were successfully conciliated by ACAS or settled out of court. Of the 48 that went to Tribunal, only 10 were successful.

The CIPD said these figures proved that far from being a burden on business, the right to request flexible working is in reality an example of ‘light-touch’ regulation more likely to support, rather than inhibit, business performance.

It argues that as businesses of all sizes have already responded positively to the legislation on flexible working, extending the law to all employees (as the government has promised to do) is unlikely to lead to a sudden rush of requests.

Flexible working is an integral part of the modern workplace, says the CIPD, and most employers are happy to consider requests, even beyond the statutory minimum.

Nor is it just for parents - the UK’s ageing workforce means older workers increasingly have caring responsibilities and want more flexible routes to retirement such as reducing hours or job sharing. It is also key to helping people off sick with health problems make a phased return to work.

The CIPD is urging the government to stick to its current implementation timetable for extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and refrain from extending the three year moratorium that exempts micro businesses from new employment legislation.

“The current calls to curtail or undermine employment regulation are a distraction from the debate we ought to be having about how to drive economic growth,” says Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD.

“The implausible equation between flexible working and burdens on business seems to be born of a refusal to accept that we live in a developed twenty-first century economy that is heavily dependent on the skills and commitment of its workforce.

“Making it easier to dismiss workers without good cause or watering down rights to flexible working is more likely to harm the prospects of UK plc by fostering the kind of crude and out-dated attitudes to employment relationships that will put employees off from going the extra mile.”