Mandelson warned not to backtrack on flexibility rights

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Peter Mandelson has been warned not to back down from giving flexible working rights to millions of working parents by the woman who came up with the Government's plan to extend the scheme.

Imelda Walsh, human resources director of Sainsbury's, said the case for giving flexible working rights to around 4.5 million parents remained the same as when she published the plan last May, despite the economic crisis.

She will be meeting the Business Secretary to discuss her concerns after The Independent revealed last month that Mr Mandelson was reviewing the policy as the tough economic climate hit businesses. "I wouldn't change my recommendations," Ms Walsh said. "The reasons for extending the right to request are the same today as they were seven months ago."

The new measures, which were originally expected to come into force in April, give employees with children as old as 16 the right to ask for a flexible working deal. Only those with children under six now have the right. Small businesses say they would be affected most by the legislation.