Make flexible working a right, not a request, says TUC

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The proportion of employees doing no form of flexible working at all has barely changed in almost two decades in which the right to request it has been in place, TUC analysis reveals.

According to Labour Force Survey data 70 per cent of employees did no form of flexible working in 2020, up by just 4 percentage points in 2013 when it was 74 per cent of workers.

The TUC called attention to its finding after the government announced a new right to request flexible working from day one of the job – rather than after 26 weeks of service as is currently the case.

Flexible working was originally introduced in April 2003 for parents of children aged under six, or 18 if disabled. Photograph: iStock

Commenting on the change TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said workers should be getting the right to flexible working, rather than just the right to ask for it.

“Under these plans employers will still have free rein to turn down all or any requests for flexible working.

“Instead of tinkering around the edges, ministers should change the law so that workers have the legal right to work flexibly from the first day in the job. The right to ask nicely is no right at all.”

The new plan for flexible working requests was laid out on 23 September by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) in a consultation document, Making Flexible Working the Default. It says that making it a day one right will nudge employers into considering flexible working options early in the job design and recruitment process.

The consultation says flexible working is also about economic recovery post Covid: “This means focussing on all forms of flexibility – when you work as well as where you work – freeing employers and employees alike from the default 9-to-5 model in order to recruit and retain the talent we need.”

Making Flexible Working the Default:



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