The government is considering introducing a Flexible Working Bill which would give all employees a right to flexible working from the very first day of employment. The new Bill would also require employers to include details of flexible working arrangements in job advertisements.
The current law around flexible working which was introduced in 2014 states all employees who have more than 26 weeks’ service with their employer have the right to request flexible working if they are legally classed as an employee and they have not made another flexible working request in the past 12 months. However, employers are under no obligation to accept flexible working requests.
What is flexible working?
There are calls for a greater understanding of flexible working, which includes a variety of options such as fixed or predictable hours, allowing employees to reduce their working hours to work part-time, change their start or finish times (sometimes known as ‘flexitime’), compress hours over fewer days, work from home or elsewhere (‘remote working’) or share the job with someone else.
A right for all, rather than a perk for the few
Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, who proposed the new Bill to parliament in June, said the current flexible working law is outdated and new legislation is needed to make flexible working a right for all rather than a perk for the few. For instance, the standard working days and hours for full-time employees do not adequately support all modern families in maintaining a good work-life balance. These working arrangements particularly put women, disabled workers, and those on lower incomes at a disadvantage. Those supporting the Bill believe it may assist the government in creating more opportunities for more people including women, and those with disabilities.
Inequalities across the UK workforce
A survey to investigate the prevalence and nature of pregnancy discrimination and disadvantage in the workplace conducted by the Human Rights Commission and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills found that one in nine mothers were either dismissed, treated poorly to the point that they chose to leave their job, or were made compulsorily redundant, where others in their workplace were not. Different approaches to flexible working from employers have led to inequalities in the UK workforce, which the new Bill aims to address.
The Bill is still moving through parliament, and it is currently at the second reading stage within the House of Commons.