‘Flexible working by default’ law passed by MPs

Flex For All campaign chalks up first success as draft legislation begins journey through parliament


Moves to make all jobs flexible by default have passed their first parliamentary hurdle.

A law that would force firms to advertise all vacancies as open to flexible hours was introduced in the House of Commons yesterday.

It passed its first reading, a purely symbolic stage. But work now begins on working it up into something more practical.

The moves in parliament are part of the Flex For All campaign launched earlier this month by social influencers Papa Pukka and Mother Pukka, otherwise known as Matt Farquharson and Anna Whitehouse, along with organisations including The Fatherhood Institute and the Fawcett Society.

A petition calling for all jobs to offer flexible hours unless there’s a good reason not to has already attracted 30,000 signatures.

Tory MP Helen Whateley (pictured above with Matt Farquharson) introduced the draft legislation. Making the case for it in the House of Commons she said, “The 40-hour, five-day working week made sense in an era of single-earner households and stay-at-home mums, but it no longer reflects the reality of how many modern families want to live their lives. We no longer divide neatly into breadwinners and homemakers. Our lives are more complicated than that – and better for it. Although some employers recognise that and are moving with the times, many are not, so it is time to shift the dial on flexible working.”

Cultural barriers

Less than 10% of jobs paying more than £20,000 per annum are currently advertised as flexible. All employees have the right to request flexible working but there are cultural barriers preventing people from asking for it. Some fear they will be seen as less committed if they opt to work flexibly. However the evidence suggests the opposite. Businesses that allow flexible working are less likely to report employees taking time off sick. Research by the campaign group Pregnant then Screwed, who are backing the new law, found 81% of people who work flexibly report being happier in their work with resultant benefits in productivity and loyalty.

Whately, a deputy chair of the Conservative party and rising star in parliament, made explicit reference to working dads in her speech. She said, “The barriers to requesting flexible working can be even greater for men because of old-fashioned perceptions about the ideal worker and the idea that caring for children is a woman’s job.”

Matt Farquharson and Anna Whitehouse, aka Papa Pukka and Mother Pukka on Instagram, joined campaigners outside parliament. They said, “We have been campaigning over 5 years for effective flexible working and today it seems the tide is turning. It feels like the Government is listening, businesses are listening and that the people are being listened to!”

The bill still faces a number of further stages in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law.

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