The political intention behind the original flexible working regulations when they first came out in 2002 was to assist those with child care responsibilities (usually, but not always, women) to retain their place in the job market. The intention was to increase female participation in the job market by making it easier for women to hold down jobs whilst bringing up a family.
It has been interesting to watch the development of the concept of flexible working from the original intention to help women to remain in work. That original intention was firmly rooted in the concept of equality; men and women should have equal rights and that people in particular circumstances might need to be given greater rights in order to achieve equality.
The new rules on flexible working now extend the right to all employees to request flexible working. That sounds in some ways a very egalitarian thing to do but the irony of this development is that it may end up compounding the inequality which the original regulations were intended to combat.
Most employers will not be in a position to grant all requests for flexible working and indeed flexible working requests are judged in the circumstances prevailing at the time they are made. So if a number of flexible working requests are granted particularly to people who do not have child care responsibilities the impact of that may well be that those who do and who apply later will have their request refused.
If this happens then matters will have gone a full circle and in the name of equality we will be back in the unequal position which we were in prior to 2002.