Flexibility is a major advantage to company directors of small businesses in recruiting or retaining staff, according to Swiftwork.
Female employees and their children also benefit from flexible employment opportunities and the economy benefits from having access to a larger pool of labour.
According to the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, the first DTI flexible working employee survey found that 52 per cent of employees were aware of the right to request flexible working hours.
Some 13 per cent of all employees have requested to work flexibly since company legislation introduced in April 2003 made in mandatory. Since then, 86 per cent of flexible working requests were either fully or partly accepted by employers.
The survey also found that women were more likely to request to work flexibly than men - 41 per cent versus 31 per cent.
Lynette Swift, managing director of Swiftwork, said: "Many women would not be able to return to work after maternity or to remain in work if they were not offered flexibility.
"Their requirements can change over time, for example as children grow older and go off to school or if an elderly parent needs increasing care.
"Flexibility enables small business to retain their key staff who have valued knowledge and skills."
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