All employers could be forced to offer staff flexible working hours by default under proposed new laws
- Helen Whately MP introduced a bill this week to make flexible hours the default
- The Tory MP said it would cut the gender pay gap and help parents share duties
- One campaigner for flexible working hours hailed the proposal as a ‘big moment’
All employers could be forced to offer flexible working hours to their staff under a proposed new law championed by a Tory MP.
Helen Whately’s Flexible Working Bill would make flexible working the default, replacing the current system in which workers have to request it after six months.
The bill would help parents share childcare duties and reduce the gender pay gap by making life easier for working mothers, she told the Commons.
One campaigner for flexible working hours called the bill a ‘big moment’, although it is unlikely to pass unless the Government throws its weight behind it .
All workers could be entitled to flexible working hours under new legislation proposed by a Tory MP who said the change would help parents share childcare duties (stock photo)
Speaking to MPs, Mrs Whately said only one in 10 jobs that pay at least £20,000 are advertised as being flexible.
‘The 40-hour, five-day working week made sense in an era of single-earner households and stay-at-home mums, but it no longer reflects the reality of how many modern families want to live their lives,’ she told the Commons on Tuesday.
‘The grounds on which a flexible working request can be denied are vague,’ she went on.
‘All the onus currently rests on the employee to make the case for why they should get special treatment, and many feel that they cannot even ask.
‘Being more family friendly helps employers recruit more women and enables more women to stay in work.
‘That is good for women and good for business.’
Mrs Whately also suggested that her bill would help men, saying that fathers were less likely to request a flexible working schedule.
Conservative MP Helen Whately (pictured) introduced the bill this week
Employers would still be able to set out reasons why a job cannot be done flexibly, but the bill would ‘shift the norm,’ she said.
Anna Whitehouse of the Flex Appeal campaign called it a ‘big moment’, saying that ‘momentum was building’ behind demands for flexible working.
‘It’s being gradually acknowledged as the key way to close the gender pay gap and promote a happier, healthier and more productive workforce,’ she said.
Under current law, employers can request flexible working hours once they have worked for the same company for at least 26 weeks.
They do not have to be parents or carers to do so and employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.
But they do not have to grant them and can refuse them ‘if they have a good business reason for doing so,’ the Government says.
Earlier this month an alliance of groups, including the Fawcett Society and the Fatherhood Institute, spearheaded a petition for all roles to be advertised as flexible from day one of employment.
Mrs Whately made the proposal using Parliament’s Ten Minute Rule which allows MPs to give a short speech introducing a bill.
This means it is unlikely to pass unless the Government decides to back it.
Parliament’s website says such bills are ‘often an opportunity for Members to voice an opinion on a subject or aspect of existing legislation, rather than a serious attempt to get a bill passed.’