An MP has called on the government to introduce a flexible working bill which would make all jobs flexible by default.
Yesterday (16th July 2019), Conservative MP Helen Whately stood in front of Parliament to bring forward a flexible working bill which would see firms required to make every job flexible (unless there was a valid business reason as to why the standard work hours had to be implemented).
However, despite appearing to be relatively similar to the previous flexible working bill, this one has a vital amendment.
Currently, the Employment Rights Act 1996 details the legal rights of employees to request flexible working after 26 continuous weeks of employment. In addition, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is discussing whether it should be mandatory for senior management to consider whether they should make a job flexible.
However, this asks the wrong question, says Ms. Whately. She tells PoliticsHome that this is “starting from a presumption against flexibility”. Instead, Ms. Whately wishes to ask employers to explain “why a job can’t be done flexibly”.
Ms. Whately believes that a 40-hour, five-day work week is no longer representative of the way modern families want to live.
She asserts that this outdated way of working is forcing people to make the choice between set work hours and other responsibilities outside of the workplace such as childcare. Ms Whately says that these set full-time hours are forcing women to reluctantly leave full-time employment and are pushing men into working full-time, leaving them with little time to spend with their children.
However, by implementing flexible working, Ms. Whately is certain this will “help close the gender pay gap, empower parents to share childcare more equally, and help businesses hang on to talented staff”.
In fact, she sees many advantages;closing the gender pay gap could add an extra £150 billion to the UK’s GDP by 2025. Also, retaining a happy, loyal and productive work force would be easier as 70 per cent of people said they would feel reluctant to leave an employer who offered flexible hours, according to research by the campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed.
This bill has since been approved for a second reading which is occurring today (17th July 2019).
Therefore, HRreview decided to reach out to professionals to ask whether they approved of the idea of mandatory flexible working.
Matt Weston, managing director at Robert Half UK, a specialised recruitment service, said:
With technology shaping the office of tomorrow, employees no longer need to be at their desks from nine to five to do their jobs.
For employers, introducing a flexible working initiative can provide a host of benefits. It can widen the hiring pool to candidates that may live outside of a realistic commuting distance and in some cases, prove to be the deciding factor in getting their preferred candidate over the line. We are seeing more professionals today prioritise their work-life balance and seek out businesses which offer flexibility to achieve this.
For businesses and employees, flexible working holds the key to the future of smart working.
Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, said:
There are clear business benefits to introducing flexible working. The main one is a vital boost to productivity. Compared to the US, Canada, Japan and Germany – UK businesses lag far behind in terms of productivity output.
“Yet three quarters (77 per cent) of employees state that flexible working has improved their productivity. It enables employees to work in a way that suits them, creating a happy, healthy and engaged workforce which is more efficient and therefore productive.