You may soon be legally entitled to flexible working - here's what you need to know

Monday, 22nd July 2019, 14:16 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd July 2019, 15:16 pm
The law would mean employers would have to offer flexible working to staff in their contracts by default (Photo: Shutterstock)

All employees could soon be granted the legal right to flexible working hours under a proposed new law.

The law would mean employers would have to offer flexible working to staff in their contracts by default, without staff having to actively request it.

Default for all

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Currently, employees can apply for flexible working if they have been continuously working for the same employer for at least six months. However, whether this benefit is granted is at the discretion of the company who employs them.

Proposed new laws could see this change following a flexible working bill that was raised in Parliament last week (16 July).

Conservative MP Helen Whately, who raised the case, argued that flexible working should be the default position for all employees and should be added to all job adverts. Whately said the move would not only help to close the gender pay gap, but would also assist parents in sharing childcare and help businesses retain its staff.

The bill was passed on the first reading and given approval to go to a second, where MPs will debate the main principles.

The proposed law would assist parents in sharing childcare (Photo: Shutterstock)

Improving working lives

When introducing her bill, Whately argued that a five day working week no longer reflects the reality of how modern families should work and stressed that unless an employer has a legitimate business reason for having fixed hours, flexibility should be made available for every member of staff.

Whately said, "The 40-hour five-day working week made sense in an era of single-earner households and stay-at-home mums, but it no longer reflects the reality of how many modern families want to live their lives.

"At the moment, too many women are reluctantly dropping out of work or going part-time after having children because their employers won't allow them flexibility.

"This entrenches the assumption that men are the breadwinners and women are the homemakers.

"As a result, men don't get to spend as much time as they might like with their children, women miss out on career opportunities, and the country loses out on the contribution they could and would like to make - if only they could do slightly different hours or work some days from home."

Despite the right to request flexible hours being introduced in 2014, only 9.8 per cent of jobs that pay more than £20,000 are advertised as being flexible, according to the MP.

However, as many as 87 per cent of workers would like to see the option introduced.

Despite the right to request flexible hours being introduced in 2014, only 9.8 per cent of jobs that pay more than £20,000 are advertised as being flexible, according to the MP.

However, as many as 87 per cent of workers would like to see the option introduced.

Whately cited an example of a male lawyer who asked his employer if he could work flexibly one day each week, only to be asked what his wife was doing.

She said, "All these conversations start with a presumption against flexibility.

"I ask what if we flip the question and ask whether a job can't be done flexibly.

"How many more employers would find that actually it didn't make a difference where or when a piece of work was done, as long as it was done?"

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Yorkshire Evening Post.