Flexible working should be available to all

All employees should benefit from flexible working, Beverly Hughes argues
All employees should benefit from flexible working, Beverly Hughes argues

All employees in the UK should be able to benefit from flexible working hours, children's minister Beverly Hughes has said.

Under current legislation, only parents with very young or disabled children can apply for flexible working, but this should be extended to all employees Ms Hughes argues.

Writing in a new collection of essays published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Ms Hughes argues the best way to help children see their parents more often and strengthen families is to fundamentally change Britain's working culture.

"Many working people say they feel time-squeezed," she writes in the new book.

"With more women at work, an aging population and many people aspiring to volunteer or to further develop their skills, government and employers need to recognise that balancing work and life is an issue that's not going away. We need a step change."

Currently the right to request flexible working only applies to parents of children under six or disabled children under 18, affecting about 3.6 million people.

This will be extended to UK residents who are related to or live with someone they have a caring responsibility for from April, covering another 2.8 million people.

But this is not enough.

"Everyone has a life outside work, not just parents," Ms Hughes argues.

"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."

Ms Hughes also argues jobs should be advertised as part-time, job-share or flexi-time unless there is a "sound business case" not to do this.

She also called for paid paternity leave to be doubled to a month, progressively increasing the rates of maternity and paternity pay, and making the existing 13 weeks of parental leave paid.

Employers warned that any changes would have to be implemented carefully, pointing out companies still have to "get the job done".

"It is vital that the impact of this change is fully reviewed before any further groups are included," said Susan Anderson, CBI director of human resources policy.

"Only by having a gradual and phased extension can we avoid firms being deluged under a sudden increase in requests.

"Firms must have the time they require to accommodate the varying needs of their staff and it would be foolish to put the continued success of the policy at risk."


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