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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Help companies provide more flexible work environments for shared parenting

Last updated: 10:26am 11 February 2019

…and help companies provide more flexible work environments that help mothers and fathers to share parenting.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.56

Our verdict

Flexible working is a way to help employees balance their personal and working lives, and is often of particular significance for pregnant mothers and parents of young children.

In 2002, employees gained the right to apply for flexible working, allowing them to negotiate working hours their employers could reasonably accept. As things stand, all workers employed for over 26 weeks are entitled to apply for flexible working and employers have three months to respond before they can be taken to an employment tribunal.

So what has this government done?

In July 2017, Good Work, a review of modern working practices by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Arts, was published. In its response in February 2018, the government promised action on issues related to flexible working, including:

  • addressing one-sided flexibility
  • providing a right to request a more predictable contract

In October 2018, the government published a briefing paper on flexible working, outlining the existing legal framework and some of the issues that this policy might address (the gender pay gap, shared parenting, etc.).

Then, in December 2018, the Good Work Plan was published, in which the government provided more detail of plans to address one-sided flexibility, promising legislation on the right to request a more predictable contract and to extend the permissible gap in continuous employment, and a further promise of legislation to repeal the so-called “Swedish derogation”, a move intended to protect agency workers from contractual exploitation.

The Taylor Review and the work that has followed from it, particularly the Good Work Plan, have gone some way towards fulfilling this policy. Once the promised legislation is in place, we will consult with independent employment rights organisations as to whether government actions have actually increased workplace flexibility to assist shared parenting. For now, this is ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates.

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