I believe that flexible working is an employment right and it should not be left to the discretion of employers. Indeed, I believe that:
- All workers should have the right to flexible working from day one of their employment.
- There should be a presumption in favour of flexible working, with the onus on the employer to prove that a job cannot be done flexibly.
- Employers should be required to advertise jobs that can be done flexibly as being suitable for flexible working.
Technological progress and changes in the UK labour market are making flexible working a more realistic option right across the economy, and the pandemic has shown us that more jobs can be done at home than ever before. However, the norm is still that flexibility is introduced when it serves the interests of the employer rather than when it benefits the employee.
I believe that a change in the law to make flexible working the norm is an essential step to closing the gender pay gap and dismantling the structural barriers that hold women back from promotion and progression. It would stop women being shut out of the workplace because they are a mum or a carer for a parent or disabled loved one. In addition, it could provide further economic and environmental benefits through reducing commuter congestion and decreasing business costs such as office overheads.
I therefore support the introduction of a Flexible Working Bill, which would enshrine in law the three points that I made at the start of this post. Indeed, my Opposition Colleagues and I supported a Flexible Working Bill when it was introduced in 2019.
The Bill passed its First Reading debate in the House of Commons on 16 July 2019. However, the Bill never had a date scheduled for its Second Reading and, as is the case with almost all Private Members’ Bills that do not have Government support, the Bill fell.
I am glad that Tulip Siddiq is introducing another Flexible Working Bill this year. However, I fear that it is almost certainly going to hit a dead end like the previous one. Nevertheless, I do support the introduction of the Bill and I can assure you that I will continue to push to make flexible working a universal right from day one.