Government minister backs flexible working for all staff

All British employees should be entitled to work flexibly, according to the Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes.

In an essay titled Children, parenting and families: Renewing the progressive story, which is included in Politics for the new generation: the progressive moment published by the Institute for Public Policy Research, she argued that the right would help employees to achieve a better work-life balance.

“Everyone has a life outside work, not just parents. We must redefine the ideal worker and accept it is a fantasy to expect people to have none other than work commitments. Indeed, many people make valuable contributions to their communities in their non-work time.

“The government has made great progress in opening up the right to request flexible working and enabling both employees and employers to see the benefits. Extending the right to request flexible working to everyone would be a natural progression and enable all workers – whatever their personal circumstances – to balance home and work better,” she said.

Hughes argued that extending the right to request flexible working would also†help parents to balance work around their children, rather than their children around their work and make it easier to balance childcare responsibilities between mother and father.

Currently only around 3.6 million people have the right to request flexible working and they are parents of children under six, or disabled children under 18. From April, people related to or who live with someone that they have caring responsibilities for, will also be able to make the request.

Hughes stated that this right should be extended to all employees, which would be approximately 29 million people and that jobs should be advertised as part-time, job-share or flexi-time unless there is a sound business case not to. She also recommended doubling the length of paid paternity leave to a month and progressively increasing the rates of maternity and paternity pay, as well as paying during the†existing 13 weeks of parental leave so that low-income parents, especially fathers, can take time off to care for young children.

Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the Confederation of British Industry, said: “Over 90% of employers are shown to be granting requests to work more flexibly and from April the right will extend to adult ‘carers’. It is vital that the impact of this change is fully reviewed before any further groups are included, however. Only by having a gradual and phased extension can we avoid firms being deluged under a sudden increase in requests.”