Legislation giving employees the right to request flexible working has failed to increase take-up, according to new research.
There has been no significant overall increase in the number of employees with formal flexible working agreements since the legislation came into effect in 2014, a British Sociological Association conference in Belfast heard today.
Joanna Wilson analysed survey data from a sample of up to 24,736 UK employees for her PhD at the University of Manchester.
She found that when comparing the same people in 2010 and 2015, there was little change in the uptake of formal flexible working – those working flexible start and finish times, fewer hours, or from home. In 2010, 44.1% of all employees worked flexibly, and by 2015 the figure was 44.3%.
While there were small changes in some areas, such as decreases in the use of term-time working and job shares and increases in the use of flexi-time and homeworking, these changes were not statistically significant, with the one exception of an increase in homeworking.
Wilson told the ‘Work, Employment and Society’ conference that the Conservative-LibDem coalition had brought in a statutory right for staff to request flexible working in June 2014.
She said that the findings may reflect a limitation of the legislation that employees must be employed for at least six months before having the right to request and that not all employees may be aware of their right to request flexible working.
She also found that:
The conference also heard a paper showing little has improved for gig economy workers in the UK since the release of a major European report into the platform economy a year ago. Professor Chris Forde of the Leeds University Business School was a co-author of a report issued by the European Parliament last year which surveyed 1,200 gig economy workers in eight countries, including the UK.
The report found that British gig workers had a median average pay 47% lower than the national hourly minimum wage for the UK, among the worst rate in the countries studied.
On a more positive note, Sanne Velthuis from Coventry University told the conference that, although middle-skilled jobs had declined because of automation, relatively large proportions of low-paid workers were moving directly into highly-skilled jobs, where the demand has increased.