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Government consults on ‘right to request’ flexible working: Dr Erika Kispeter comments

As the Government publishes its consultation on extending the ‘right to request’ flexible working to the first day of a job, Dr Erika Kispeter of the Institute for Employment Research comments on the impact this could make.

Dr Erika Kispeter of the Institute for Employment Research said: "The government’s plans to extend the ‘right to request’ flexible working take this approach as far as possible: at its inception in 2003 the scheme was open only to those with children under six years old and after the current plans are implemented it will be open to all employees as soon as they start a new job.

"The removal of the qualifying period of 26 weeks will likely be welcome by parents, carers, disabled workers, the organisations lobbying on their behalf as well as HR professionals, all of whom have long argued that more flexible working opportunities would benefit everyone.

"Considering the general agreement about the benefits of flexible working, it is surprising that the plans put forward by the government do not encourage employers to consider and offer more flexible working opportunities and discuss these with applicants as part of the hiring process. Perhaps giving employees the right to request flexible working in a tight labour market is seen as a ‘nudge’ that has been shown to be effective in generating new flexible jobs.

"However, the proposed extension of the ‘right to request’ does not change the logic of the system: workers have to convince their managers that a flexible working arrangement they are asking for is feasible. This approach ignores the power differential between employee and employer and, what is even more problematic in the long term, it reinforces the notion that flexible working is an exception to the rule."

23 September 2021

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