The group have raised concerns about the potential rise of a “two-tier workforce”, occurring if flexible working is not offered to all workers across the board.
Key members of the Government’s Flexible Working Task Force have shared their view that flexible working should be offered to all workers.
The taskforce was initially set up in 2018 but has since re-emerged to develop policies and practises that will support employers and workers to adapt to new ways of working, including hybrid working, post-pandemic.
Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD and co-chair of the taskforce, outlined the various benefits that offering flexible working to staff could have:
This is an opportunity to shift ways of working, which have barely changed for generations. It will allow more people with other life commitments to participate in work and it will improve wellbeing.
In addition to this, Sue Coe, a TUC policy officer and member of the Flexible Working Task Force, explored the problems which could arise by only offering flexible working to certain groups:
We are concerned about the potential for a two-tier workforce emerging with the flexible working haves, who can work from home, and the flexible working have-nots, who cannot. These workers need access to flexitime, part-time working, job shares. We need flexible working for everybody.
As it currently stands, an employee with over 26 weeks of continuous service may make a formal request for flexible working. However, employers do have the right to refuse this due to multiple factors including the burden of additional costs, a detrimental impact on quality, performance or ability to meet customer demand.
Despite the pandemic causing an overhaul in working models, research by the CIPD showed that only three in 10 employers (30 per cent) are looking to introduce new types of flexible working (excluding working from home) over the next year.
In light of this, the TUC has encouraged the Flexible Working Task Force to consider making it mandatory for employers to include flexible working options when advertising for roles.
Sue Coe argued this would “mainstream flexibility”, giving people the right to take it up as opposed to allowing flexible working to be “doled out sparingly as a perk”.
Furthermore, Peter Cheese suggested that employers should be made to publish data regarding flexible working, similarly to the publishing of Gender Pay Gap Data being made mandatory,
He stated that requiring “evidence” from companies regarding their flexible working policies would ensure “greater transparency”, leading to an encouragement of these behaviours.
Paul Scully revealed that the Government desired flexible working to be the “default”:
The pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the world of work, and brought the need for flexibility in the workplace into sharp relief. Companies have had to adapt as they go, but if we can learn from this experience, we’ll be sure to build back better.
Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.