A new law giving those caring for others the right to flexible working hours came in on 6 April.

Under the Work and Families Act 2006 around three million people currently looking after disabled and chronically sick partners, relatives or friends will have the right to work flexi-time, part-time, on a job-share basis, on a shift basis or at home.

There are some circumstances in which an application for flexible working can be legitimately refused by the employer such as an unreasonable burden of additional costs, lack of work available (eg outside office hours) or detrimental effect on performance, quality, ability to meet customer demand or on work of existing staff.

According to the charity Carers UK the figure of 3 million carers represents one in seven of the workforce. However it points out that there are another 1.5 million carers who are not currently working who could be attracted back into employment if the arrangement offered was flexible.

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