Class divide widening on flexible working, says TUC

A TUC survey calls on the Government to modernise flexible working legislation and ensure it works for all forms of flexibility.

Woman working at a supermarket checkout

 

People in higher-paid occupations are much more likely to have worked from home during the pandemic (60%) than those in working-class jobs (23%), according to a poll by the TUC.

The TUC’s research also shows that those who cannot work from home are significantly more likely to be denied flexible working options by employers after the pandemic.

One in 6 (16%) of employers surveyed say that after the pandemic, they will not offer flexible working opportunities to staff who could not work from home during the pandemic. This compares to one in 16 (6%) saying they will not offer flexible working opportunities to those who did work from home in the pandemic.

The TUC says that this shows a new “emerging class divide” in access to jobs that enable workers to balance their working life and other responsibilities. It is calling on the government to bring in new flexible working rights for every worker in every job. 

The poll also shows that four out of five (82%) of workers say that they want to take up some form of flexible working in the future and that nine out of 10 (91%) people who worked from home during the pandemic wish to continue doing their job remotely at least some of the time..

Almost two-thirds (64%) of workers say that they want some form of flexibility in their working hours after the pandemic, including flexi-time (23%), part-time (15%), predictable hours (9%), compressed hours (8%), term-time working (6%) and annualised hours (4%).

But only half of workers (54%) say they have the right in their current job to request a change to their regular working hours to fit around other commitments.

The survey also found that one in 10 workers want mutually agreed predictable hours (9%) after the pandemic, rising to one in eight (13%) for working-class occupations.

Most workers (63%) believe that working people should get flexible working from day one in a job.

The poll comes amid debate about whether government plans to review flexible working legislation. Earlier in the week a spokesman denied that this meant granting a right to work from home, but said flexible working would be made easier.

The TUC wants the right to flexible working for every worker, regardless of where they work or what job they do – and says that every job should be advertised with flexible working options clearly displayed. It says that while not every job may be open to all forms of flexible working, all jobs should be open to some forms and employers should have far less discretion to refuse flexible working. It also wants a ban on zero-hours contracts, a right to disconnect outside contracted hour and stronger rights for access to trade unions so they can collectively bargain for fair flexible working policies.

Flexible working legislation currently only allows a right to request flexible options after 26 weeks in a job and employers have several fairly broad reasons they can give for turning down a request. There is no statutory right to appeal their decision.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Government must bring in a new right to flexible working for every worker, in every job. Otherwise people in working-class jobs will miss out – while those who can work from home get the benefits of flexible working.

“This emerging class divide in access to flexible working is no way to thank those workers who carried on doing their job in workplaces throughout the pandemic.

“Ministers should seize the moment and make Britain a world leader in flexible working rights.”

The TUC has also just release information from councils based on Freedom of Information requests which show almost two thirds of workers seeking financial support to self isolate due to Covid have been refused. The grants of 500 pounds were launched to encourage workers not to go to work when they have been asked to self isolate. The TUC says reasons given for refusal include not being in valid employment or self-employment and not receiving in-work benefits. The figures show wide variation in how councils are responding to the requests and one council blamed the guidance on giving out the grants is ‘too tight’.



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