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Britain’s flexible work plans look like a failure


Although all The pandemic has also caused the hardship it has caused, as has the opportunity of a lifetime. By demonstrating that people can work responsibly – and often more efficiently – from home, and demonstrating how the care of loved ones can exist side by side, not in the face of our jobs, I felt that there could be no turning back to earlier times. Or at least we won’t have to go back to the office full time. There could be a better way to work. But as the months went by, and calls for British politicians to “leave our structures” and return to offices mounted, any hope of a flexible work revolution in the UK was quelled.

The latest thing to swallow in a bitter pill packet is to consult the government to make flexible work the ‘default’. Launched by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in late September, it called on organizations to provide views on whether and how flexible working rights should be promoted in the UK. It happens because the Conservative Party promised to “encourage flexible working” in its 2019 general election manifesto. Business Minister Kwasi Kwarting said the proposals would enable workers to “have a greater say in where and when they work”.

Currently, after 26 weeks of service with their employer, each employee in the UK is entitled to submit one Flexi Work Application per year. Once the application is submitted, if it is rejected, the employee must wait a year before submitting a new application. The consultation aimed to change this to a right of application from day one, to enable more than one application per year, and to reduce the deadline for a response. Currently, the employer must respond within three months of receiving the application.

The consultation also suggested a reassessment of the valid reasons for rejecting the application and made a condition for the employer to suggest alternatives where the job application could not be met flexibly. All of this, if adopted simultaneously by the government, could lead to a wide-ranging reform of the way we work. But if, as might be expected, only one new law was introduced—enhancing the immediate right to demand—the consultation was as useful as the use of a chocolate fire.

In addition to proposing legislative reform, the government’s Flexible Task Force, an advisory federation of business groups, unions, charities and government departments, advises on practical and legal issues, including health and safety, teleworking, equality and equity, and performance management. The three-month window for companies and organizations to submit their evidence closes on December 1, with the result likely to be published in the first half of 2022.

“We have seen that this commitment to ‘flexible work as a default’ is just rhetoric. There is absolutely no substance to it,” says Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed. “The government will transfer the right to demand flexible work to Day One. to hiring because it is the simplest thing they can do to look like they have fulfilled their pledge in the manifesto.” Despite the significant contributions and evidence by employees and employers, it is the only legal amendment we can expect. As Alice Arkwright, Digital Projects Officer at the British Trade Union Congress (TUC) pointed out ), even this is just a “reform within the limits of legislation that has not worked.” In fact, the “right to demand” model was introduced to parents and carers in 2003, and in the next two decades it made little change. In 2013, 74 did not percent of employees have flexible work, compared to 70 percent in 2020.

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