Last week the Government published their response to the Modern Workplaces Consultation. I’ve already blogged about the proposal to introduce flexible parental leave here. Another significant change proposed by the consultation response is to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees who have been with their employer for at least 6 months.
Arguably everyone has always had the right ‘to request’, but previously employers have only had a legal duty to seriously consider and respond to requests from parents or carers. By extending this to all employees, the Government’s hoping to change the association of flexible working with the ‘mummy track’, that is reduced career progression after coming back from maternity leave or a career break. This perception, as we know from the Work-Life Balance Study, is quite gendered. Men are more likely to think that working flexibly negatively affects chances of promotion.
This fear of the ‘mummy track’ highlights persisting inequalities. The sexes still on the whole have different working patterns; about half of all men work flexibly or part-time compared to over two-thirds of women. And, crucially, employers have different expectations of men and women: men are about twice as likely to have their request to work flexibly refused.
Policy attempts to address these gender inequalities should be applauded. It seems that so far, though, that private companies are not convinced by the business case for a good work-life balance; just 41% of employers believe that flexible working is good for productivity.
As a parent working flexibly I hope that lots more employees up and down the country will be requesting to work more flexibly to achieve a better work-life balance and help bring about a change in attitudes among employers as well as childless employees.
After all, shouldn’t a more enjoyable work-life balance be something everyone can aspire to? So, will you be putting in a request in 2014? What could a change to your working arrangements enable you to do?