Flexible Working Bill
It was recently reported that a Bill was put to parliament last Tuesday to address flexibility at work. Helen Whately, its chief advocate and Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, presented the Ten Minute Rule Bill on 16 July 2019. Whately, as an ex management consultant, promoted the importance of flexible working hours and a balanced work-life style from an experienced perspective.
Fortunately, the Bill was received very positively by Parliament, as it was approved for a second reading on 17 July 2019. For campaigners, this was a significant moment in history. Anna Whitehouse, founder of Flex Appeal, commented that the five years spent campaigning for compromise was finally starting to be recognised and acknowledged by agents of change.
Whitehouse makes it clear in her advertisement of flexible working that it’s not just about parents, “it’s about people” not working themselves to death.
Some of the key benefits of Whately’s Bill (for both employers and employees) appear to include:
- Closing the gender pay gap (a hot topic statistic in the news);
- Assisting parents in sharing the responsibilities of childcare; and
- Helping businesses to retain staff.
It is clear that this project aims to re-open the possibilities for people who are currently missing out on either career opportunities and development in the workplace, or quality family time.
Breadwinners and Businesses
Currently, old-fashioned and outdated assumptions that men are the so-called “breadwinners” and women are the child-bearers/house-wives mean that the idea of flexible working has been diminished. What is becoming apparent, however, is that men are also at a disadvantage as they too are enslaved to the rigidity of their working hours. Most working parents are now levelling out in their working commitments, and so it is relevant and timely that this Bill be introduced.
Businesses will also see the fruits of their (not so intense) labour, as a workforce is made stronger, more loyal and diverse when it is allowed to breathe. At this point, as an employer, it’s about recognising that it doesn’t matter where or when the work gets done – as long as it gets done!
Flexible working can take many shapes and forms for employees, including:-
- Working from home
- Compressed hours
- Annualised hours
- Staggered hours
- Phased retirement
At the moment, working from home and part-time work seem to be the popular choices – in most cases, women feel that they have no choice but to reduce their hours in order to stabilise their childcare responsibilities. This movement will begin to merge the perspective on home vs work life and hopefully, as the working environment evolves, the two will not be kept as separate or taboo from the walls of the office.
Unfortunately, the Bill will not be passed as law unless it receives secure government backing. At the very least, this act of publicity has raised awareness of a relevant, topical issue that affects everyone in the makeup of a household.
For employers, this may encourage a reconsideration of the terms of employment that restrict staff to certain working hours and days – the 40hour Monday-Friday working week is becoming considerably less desirable or realistic. This structure worked previously purely on the basis that men were the only household fee-earners and would, therefore, require the extra hours in order to provide for their families. Fast-forward to now, it is clear that this is no longer necessary – with the advancements of technology, mobile /portable work schemes are the initiatives that everyone is excited about.
For more information on what our employment team can offer, please contact Millie Kempley or you can give us a call on 0345 070 6000.
This article was prepared by Olivia Atkinson.