The Labour Party recently announced that employees would have the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment under a Labour government, with a “presumption in favour of flexible working”.
Why are they suggesting this when there has been a right to request flexible working since 2003?
Labour highlighted a recent Office for National Statistics study which showed that “sandwich carers” – those looking after young children and elderly parents – feel shut out of the labour market because of a lack of flexibility.
Nearly half (46%) of women in such a situation said they either felt unable to work at all, or as much as they would like. One third of male (35%) carers felt the same. Meanwhile 28% of female sandwich carers are deemed ‘economically inactive’ and not classed as part of the UK workforce, compared with 10% for men.
Butler said: “Women do the vast majority of unpaid care, but this must not be a barrier to women in work. That’s why I’m announcing Labour’s plans to introduce rights to flexible working from day one of employment.
“This change to the law is essential to closing the gender pay gap and dismantling the structural barriers that hold women back from promotion and progression. It may also result in more men taking on caring responsibilities themselves, finally lightening the load that women bear.”
The current legal provision allows all employees to request to work flexibly BUT unlike the Labour proposal;
- An employee must have at least 26 weeks continuous employment to make a request
- An employee can only make one request in every 12 months (whether granted or not)
- The employer has to consider the request but there is no presumption that it must be granted (there are 9 grounds on which it can be declined)
Questions that we have no information on yet;
- Will the request have to be in writing?
- Will it be still one request whether successful or not every 12 months; and
- Will there any prioritisation of certain people’s requests if made at the same time. Currently, the employer can decide which request will be given priority.
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