To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures are in place to ensure that working parents with children under six or with disabled children are (a) able to request flexible working hours from employers and (b) that their requests are seriously considered. 
On 6 April 2003, the Government introduced new employment legislation specifically to provide working parents with more choice in how they balance their work and family responsibilities. This included a statutory right for employees with children under six, or disabled children under 18, to request flexible working arrangements, and a statutory duty on employers to consider such requests according to a set procedure.The procedure, set out in regulations and based on existing best practice, ensures that all requests are dealt with seriously and consistently, and assists those employers who may not have had experience of handling such requests before. Employers who deliberately ignore the legislation and breach any aspect of the procedure may risk being taken to an Employment Tribunal, who have the power to award compensation or order the application to be reconsidered. In addition, employers may only refuse an application on one or more of eight business grounds, which are specified in the Employment Act 2002. An employee has the right to complain to a Tribunal if the employer bases their refusal on other grounds or incorrect facts.To enable employers and employees to use the legislation most effectively, we have produced extensive guidance both on the internet at www.dti.gov.uk/ workingparents and in hard copy. Guidance is also available in an interactive format at www.tiger.gov.uk, and helpline support is being provided by Acas on 08457 47 47 47. To help raise awareness of the new legislation prior to it coming into force, the Government also ran a six-week advertising campaign in the national press.