The recent announcement that the planned changes on flexible working due to come into effect next month will now not go ahead now has been labelled a ”backward” step in a survey by Workingmums.co.uk. Here, we look at the potential consequences of the Government’s action.
The recent announcement that the planned changes on flexible working due to come into effect next month will now not go ahead has been labelled a ”backward” step in a survey by Workingmums.co.uk. Here, we look at the potential consequences of the Government’s action.
Repeal of plans
Last September, the Coalition Government announced the right to request flexible working would be extended to parents of all children under 18 from April 2011. But earlier this month it was announced this would now not be happening. However, the Government says it is still committed to its earlier statement that it will extend the right to request to all employees in due course. Mark Prisk, minister for business and enterprise, reiterated the Government’s commitment to carrying out a consultation in late spring when he spoke to the Federation of Small Businesses and outlined the repeal of the proposed changes. He labelled the new plans an ”intermediate step which is just another adjustment for business”.
Our survey said
We asked the question ”Is the Government’s new intention to repeal regulations to extend flexible working rights to parents of children under 18 a backward step or a realistic one?”
The majority (56%) told our poll they felt it was a ”backward step”, while 43% told us they thought it was a ”realistic step”.
But how big a setback is this new stance?
Bekki Clark, careers advisor, coach and author of The Mum’s Guide to Returning to Work, told Workingmums.co.uk: ”I would agree with the survey results that this move is a backwards step as this change doesn’t appear to be sending out a positive message to working parents or doing much for the Government’s ‘family-friendly’ credentials.
”However, in reality this is a minor setback for working parents and won’t be affecting many people. I hope the Government will continue with its commitment to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. I wait with interest to see what the results of the public consultation are on this – I hope that parents will get involved in the consultation and make their views clear.”
Parents of children aged 16 or under and carers for certain adults have the right to put in a request to their employers to work flexibly. However, their request can be turned down on one of eight grounds, such as if granting the request would result in additional costs or would have a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demands.
The right to request flexible working is only available to employees who have been working continuously for their employer for 26 weeks.
The changes in the regulations since 2002 have ”changed the culture of working patterns and made flexible working far more acceptable and common place” says Clark. ”Employers have learnt that there is a clear business benefit to offering flexible working to staff. Offering flexible working patterns enables employers to harness an under-utilised resource in the workplace – i.e. mums. Businesses can also save money by employing part-time staff to cover aspects of their work, rather than assuming that it needs to be done by a full-time employee. So, I don’t think that flexible working is going to go away overnight – it is starting to become acceptable practice through the majority of sectors and at all levels.”
Anyone who is looking for a new job does not have the right to ask for flexible working, but this shouldn’t stop them from inquiring about the possibility, advises Clark. ”I always advise women not to rule out jobs that have been advertised as full-time and to apply for them anyway. many – but certainly not all – employers are willing to negotiate hours within reason if they think you are right for the job. Don’t forget that by employing you on a part-time basis, they potentially stand to save a substantial amount of money, which has to be a good think in the current climate. Be positive about what you have to offer and why you think employing you on a flexible basis would be good for them. Just because you don’t have the right in law to ask for flexible working, doesn’t mean you can’t ask.”