Report backs flexible working from the off

Staff should be able to request flexible working from the moment they start a new job rather than 26 weeks in, according to the Parliamentary Committee for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Women in the Workplace report calls for employees to be entitled to ask for flexible working from the moment they start a new job unless there are justifiable reasons to the contrary. It says: “This should be led from the top management level, with the default position being the right to ask for flexible working, unless justified.”

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The report also calls on the Government to invest resources in advising small and medium businesses, of the benefits of recruiting and retaining flexible workers, and it should highlight the work that organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses do to promote the positive benefits of flexible working.

The report recommends the establishment of a voluntary Code of Practice by the Government, through the Government Equalities Office, to highlight best practice in relation to the provision of quality part-time and flexible working. It says the Government should draw attention to those organisations that encourage flexible working for both men and women, at all levels of the workforce, including at a senior level – “in order to dispel the myth that flexible working is problematic and cannot work”.

The committee also proposes the introduction of an equal pay audits for large employers to highlight companies where women earn less, recommends abolishing incoming tribunal fees for pregnancy discrimination cases and setting firmer targets and timelines for change on boardrom diversity amid fears progress is ‘stalling’. It also urged the Government to bring back Equality Impact Assessments.

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