Over 90% of businesses say that they would operate a flexible working policy even if there was no legislative requirement, a survey from the Institute of Directors (IoD) has found.
However, over a quarter of respondents said that the proposed extension of the law to allow parents of older children to request flexible working would adversely affect their business.
Respondents said that the measurable benefits from allowing flexible working included improved productivity, profitability, customer service, recruitment, retention, absenteeism, morale, team working and knowledge sharing. But the IoD cautioned against further legislation.
Half of the IoD members questioned said that they had seen a noticeable improvement in the bottom line as a result of introducing flexible working. Miles Templeman, IoD director general, said flexible working was likely to "expand considerably" over coming years.
"What business doesn't need is the heavy hand of government when, as this survey shows, the business case is far more compelling and persuasive than regulation," he added.
The report also uncovered some of the perceived barriers to flexible working practices. These included operational or line management issues, together with a fear of fragmentation.
"We know that there is widespread availability and take-up of flexible working and as more and more companies see the benefits the faster change will occur," said Templeman. "Whilst we support everybody having the right to ask for flexible working, employees need to be realistic that in some circumstances it will not be possible."