Call for change to Flexible Working Regulations
The Work and Pensions Committee has recommended amending the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 in order to ensure a day one right to request flexible working for all employees.
The recommendation is part of the Committee’s report into work opportunities for carers.
“Flexible working is a crucial factor in many carers being able to juggle caring responsibilities and work,” the report says. “For other carers, work would be an option if they were able to work flexibly. There is a growing body of evidence that flexible working is not just good for the employee, but also highly beneficial to the employer. It is, in many cases, a win-win. We welcome the government’s support for flexible working and call for equal treatment for all employees. The law is currently, however, at odds with that rhetoric. The statutory six-month wait for a right simply to request flexible working creates uncertainty for carers and may discourage them from seeking work. We recommend the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 be amended to ensure the right to request flexible working exists from the first day of employment.”
The report finds that many carers are currently forced to use annual leave or sick days to fulfil caring responsibilities. The government has accepted the case for statutory carer’s leave, but to ensure such a provision is affordable for all carers, it must be paid time off:
“The system of statutory pay for parental leave works well for employees and employers alike. The government’s backing for the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill currently before Parliament shows its willingness to extend this model to support people in other circumstances. We recommend the government introduce five days’ paid carer’s leave when resources allow and provide a full impact assessment for such a policy in response to this report.”
Evidence cited within the report, however, reveals that employers are often reluctant to adapt to enable carers to stay in work. Carers UK found that 21% of carers had given up work “because of workplace issues around getting flexible hours or a lack of understanding from their employer”.
Research by Aviva, an insurance company that supports flexible working for its employees, found that, across 500 private employers, one in five of the workforce “dare not ask for flexible working”.
Current regulations give employees the right to request flexible working once every 12 months. The employer is not required to accept, but it must handle the request ‘in a reasonable manner’. To become eligible for this right, however, the employee must first complete 26 weeks of continuous employment. Carers UK said that this period created uncertainty for carers which may put them off working:
“Many carers tell us that they cannot find the flexible or part-time style of working which they are looking for. Without knowing that they will have an understanding employer or be able to request flexible working from day one, carers can be worried that they will be unable to balance their working life with caring.”
Some employers already allow employees to request flexible working from day one. The MS Society argued, however, that “it should not be a case of ‘luck’ that carers are supported in the workplace”. The Minister agreed that employers’ approach to flexible working needs to be “consistent right across the country”.
The Government intends to review the Flexible Working Regulations in 2019.
The Work and Pensions Committee report is available to view here.