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Employees will be able to request flexible working from day one in a new job

Rebecca Goodman
Written By:
Rebecca Goodman

Employees will be able to work flexibly from their first day in a new job, under new government proposals.

This is instead of waiting 26 weeks to request flexible working, which is the current law.

It will cover working from home and an office, job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed or staggered hours.

The aim is to make employees happier and more productive, especially for those who have caring responsibilities for children or vulnerable people.

If an employer isn’t able to offer flexible working, it must discuss other options before rejecting a request from an employee, under the government’s proposals.

The government is also looking into ways of making it easier for people with low incomes to get a second job.

The government said in its proposals, which were first announced in September 2021, there is a clear benefit for businesses if workers are allowed to work flexibly.

It can also contribute to a more diverse working environment and workforce, which studies have shown leads to improved financial returns.

Women impacted most by lack of flexibility

Many more workers have been working flexibly since the coronavirus pandemic and it was in June 2021, that the Flexible Working Bill was first read in parliament.

While flexible working can be a benefit to all employees, it’s women who will benefit the most. That’s because women are more likely to work fewer hours to take on other duties such as childcare.

However, research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) suggests that women are often forced to choose flexible working options that lead to fewer working hours and lower pay.

Part-time working is the most common form of flexible working arrangement for women, according to the TUC.

More than one in three (35.7%) women work part-time, compared to just one in nine (11.5%) men. A woman working part-time is paid on average £5.40 an hour less than a full-time man (a 33% pay gap), according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS),

When looking at those working from home, men are more likely to remain in full-time work and work from home.

In 2019, one in 13 (8%) men were working at home, compared to one in 17 (6%) women. By 2021, nearly one in 4 (23%) men worked mainly at home, compared to just over one in 5 (21%) women.

“Flexible working shouldn’t mean less pay”

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Flexible work shouldn’t always mean less hours or less pay.

“But too often, women pay a heavy financial price for trying to balance their work and caring responsibilities, being forced to drop hours – and lose pay – rather than fork out for extortionate childcare costs.

“This isn’t right. We need to ensure everyone has access to as many flexible working options as possible – not just the ones that leave you worse off.”

Minister for small business, Kevin Hollinrake, said: “Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer.

“Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.”

Tinder for flexible working

Anna Whitehouse, known as Mother Pukka, has been a long-running campaigner for flexible working.

Recently she launched WorkYourWay with co-founder with Tim Grimes. The site matches employees with flexible working roles around the world.

The website generates percentage scores for roles and candidates to help them to find a job with flexible working hours.

Candidates can filter jobs on the website depending on their own requirements, such as working patterns, workload, and workplace and life events. These discussions are usually not entered into until someone has accepted a role but can be crucial.

Anna said: “For decades, we have all kept our lives and struggles secret, desperately trying to work around an archaic 9-5 pm work day that dials right back to the Industrial Revolution. Now it’s time for change; enough is enough.

“WorkYourWay is our grassroots movement to bring all companies into the 21st century with a truly flexible job search for candidates. This is for everyone who has been denied flexible working and those desperately seeking – the power is shifting – and we’re making flexible working the norm, not the special request for job hunters today.”