Employment Protection (Flexible Working) Bill.
Pregnant Then Screwed:
This Bill will amend Part 8A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and introduce a range of changes designed to make it easier for employees to access flexible working.
Pregnant Then Screwed welcomes this Bill though we feel it needs to be strengthened as it makes its way through Committee stage.
The importance of flexible working was recognised by the UK Government in its 2019 manifesto commitment to make it the default, and in its subsequent consultation on making the right to request flexible working a day one right. Currently an employee can only make a request for a flexible working arrangement if they have been employed for 26 weeks. This places employees at a particular disadvantage if they require flexibility and may deter people from applying for career progression opportunities. The outcome of that consultation is yet to be published, but we understand it will include a commitment to amend existing regulations and make the right to request a day one right. We do not know when these changes will be made.
Whilst we agree that employees should be able to access a day one right to submit a flexible working request, we do not believe that this goes far enough to make flexible working the default.
The right to request is a failed policy. Between 2013 and 2020 the proportion of people who did any kind of flexible working rose only from 26% to 30%. A 2021 survey by the Trades Union Congress and Mother Pukka of 13,000 working mothers uncovered that 50% of working mothers are having their flexible working requests rejected or only accepted in part. Speeding up this timeline by removing the 26 week waiting period will only make the same thing happen faster.
If the Government is serious about addressing the issues detailed in the consultation material such as a reduction in reinforcement of the perception that flexible working is something an employee must earn or may receive as a “perk” then they must introduce a flexible working advertising duty where employers must list the types of flexible working available in the job advertisement. The successful candidate should have the right to take up this flexibility from their first day of work.
A TUC survey uncovered that 99% of working mothers would be more likely to apply for a job if it included the specific types of flexible working in the advert.
Unfortunately, it is clear that an advertising duty is not something the Government is keen to progress, and so we propose other options that would strengthen this Bill, namely extending the right to request to be from the point of job offer, rather than the first day of employment. We know from our consultation with women that they would find this enormously helpful and it is logical that employers would also benefit from these discussions taking place during contractual negotiations, rather than at a later date. To make the day 1 right to request start from the first day of employment would be a missed opportunity.
- The amendment of subsection 2 to remove the requirement on the employee to explain what impact a flexible working request might have on the organisation and how it could be mitigated.
- The amendment of section 80F(4) which will allow an employee to make two flexible working requests in 12 months
- The amendment to Section 80G(1)which introduces a requirement on employers to consult with the employee before rejecting a flexible working request.
- The amendment to Section 80G(1B)(a) which will reduce the time within which an employer has to respond to a request for flexible working from three to two months.
For further information please contact:
Joeli Brearley, CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed