In 2008 new legislation allowed employees with caring responsibilities the right to request flexible working arrangements; similar legislation exists in the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and Australia. This literature review was commissioned by the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women (NACEW) to inform a review of this legislation, and summarises the research published between 2005 and 2010 on flexible working arrangements as they exist in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Approaches taken by the different countries are examined, including the underlying policy intent of legislation, the benefits of and barriers to flexible work from both an employee and business perspective, the impact of the legislation, and the policy debates surrounding flexible work. Amongst other trends, it finds that flexible work arrangements exist in 90% of UK workplaces and a majority of employers consider them beneficial, and that incidence of informal agreements between staff and their employers are more common than formally negotiated arrangements.
Debate exists around whether only offering flexible work options to certain employees (such as carers) is fair; it may also entrench gender divisions within the workplace. Some researchers feel it may usefully be extended to consider other employee groups, such as the ageing workforce.