According to new research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), there is a class divide emerging in who receives flexible working from their employer. 

A new poll by the TUC warns that people from working class backgrounds are currently receiving less flexible working options, both in terms of hours and the ability to work from home.

People in higher-paid occupations were over twice as likely to have worked from home during the pandemic (60 per cent) compared to people in working-class jobs (23 per cent).

In addition to this, people who cannot work from home are more likely to be denied flexible working options post-pandemic.

One in six employers (16 per cent) stated they will not offer flexible working opportunities to staff who could not work from home during the pandemic.

This contrasts significantly against the number of employers who refuse to offer flexible working post-pandemic to staff who did work from home over the past year – only 6 per cent.

As such, the TUC have warned of an “emerging class divide” between people who have access to jobs that allow them to cultivate a healthy work-life balance and those who don’t.

Flexible working proved to be a popular option amongst those surveyed with nine in 10 people (91 per cent) who worked from home during the pandemic wanting to continue to do their job remotely at least some of the time.

Furthermore, over four out of five (82 per cent) workers stated that they want to take up some form of flexible working in the future.

This covers an array of arrangements including flexi-time (23 per cent), part-time (15 per cent), predictable hours (9 per cent), compressed hours (8 per cent), term-time working (6 per cent) and annualised hours (4 per cent).

However, just over half (54 per cent) have the right in their current job to request a change to their regular working hours to fit around other commitments.

Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) believe that working people should get flexible working from day one in a job.

As such, the TUC have called for key workers’ rights in the upcoming Employment Bill including:

  • A right to flexible working for all workers in all jobs, covering the right to work remotely for some, or all of the time, and to have greater control over hours – subject to employer rights to refuse only in exceptional circumstances.
  • A duty to include some flexible working options when advertising jobs, with workers having the right to take up the types of flexibility advertised
  • A ban on zero-hours contracts, with fair flexibility guaranteed through a stronger floor of rights on choice of working hours and shift notice.
  • A ‘right to disconnect’, so that all workers are protected from demands to work outside of their contracted hours.
  • Stronger rights for workers to access trade unions and collectively bargain for fair flexible working policies.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

As the UK gets back to normal, lots of workers will want to keep the flexibility of working from home. But no-one, whether they can work from home or not, should miss out on flexible working options that help them do their job and manage their other responsibilities too.

Government must bring in a new right to flexible working for every worker, in every job. Otherwise people in working-class jobs will miss out – while those who can work from home get the benefits of flexible working.


*To obtain these results, the TUC surveyed 2,052 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st – 24th May 2021.