Flexible working rights have been extended to all parents with children 16 or younger. CIOs will now have to be aware that their workforce with children up to the age of 16 have to right to request flexible working, and that they face automatic penalties for paying below the national minimum wage under extended workers rights.

In 2003 the current government introduced flexible working hours for parents with children six years old or younger, or if the child had a disability up until the age of 18. This new extended legislation will enable 10 million workers to be entitled to request flexible working hours. Recent studies have revealed that parents wanted flexible working rights to help their children with home work.

"Fewer mothers change jobs when they return to work, meaning greater continuity for business and more employees have been able to work hours which help them cope with parental responsibility," said Pat McFadden, the employment relations minister.

"Firms can still say no if they have legitimate business concerns, but more than 95 per cent of all requests for flexible working from working parents and carers are now accepted, as employers recognise the benefits more and more," McFadden said.

Today's extended workers rights included simpler dispute resolution rules to make it easier for management and staff.

Lord Mandelson, the business secretary said of changes, "New rights introduced over the last 10 years have made a real difference to people at work."