Flexible working APPG holds inaugural meeting

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Flexible Working held its inaugural meeting today to capitalise on the introduction of a day one right to request flexible working next month.

 

A new parliamentary group aims to start a national conversation about flexible working not being just a nice to have, but a necessity for many employees.

The All Party Parliamentary Group [APPG] on Flexible Working held its first meeting today in advance of  new legislation coming in in April which allows employees to request flexible working from day one in the job. Currently they have to wait 26 weeks before they can put in a request. The meeting was chaired by Yasmin Qureshi MP, whose Private Members’ Bill has led to the new legislation.

Jan Van Zyl from Working Families, which provides the secretariat for the APPG, outlined the cost of not providing flexible working with progression pathways. She said Working Families’ research shows 37% of mums work part time [compared to 11% of dads], but many are locked into jobs where they are not using their full potential. Working part time in lower paid jobs leads to women earning a fifth of the pension pot of men.  She also spoke about inequities in the parental leave system, due to the low rate of statutory pay which means mums in lower paid jobs are taking around 23 weeks of maternity leave compared to the average of nine months – and that many dads don’t even take their statutory two weeks’ allowance.

She said nine out of 10 employees want flexible working, but only around 55% currently work flexibly and only three in 10 jobs are advertised as being open to flexible working, according to Timewise. She also pointed out that education, health and retail, sectors in which women dominate, are some of the least flexible ones and said job design is increasingly important in terms of building in flexibility into different working patterns. Another issue she raised was predictability and advance notice of shifts and she emphasised the importance of line manager training to ensure consistency of flexible working policy across an organisation.

Alesha De-Freitas from the Fawcett Society spoke of the need for a wider cultural mindset in health and education, given labour shortages, and for best practice pilots to be scaled. She said that Covid had opened people’s eyes to the fact that the status quo is “untenable”. Before Covid people had not recognised how many people’s potential was being stifled due to a lack of flexible working.

Jennifer Amphlett from Zurich spoke about their work with the Behavioural Insights Team on boosting gender diversity in senior roles and how making roles open to part-time working and using gender neutral language on job adverts had been a game changer. They had seen a five-fold increase in female applicants in 2022 from when they started the trial in 2019 and an increase in men working part time and in engagement of part-time workers. This year they are focusing on job shares.



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