CIPD: As legislation to make the right to request flexible working universal is delayed further, a new report has found that 31 per cent of parents still have no option to work flexibly to meet childcare commitments. Current rules allow parents with children under the age of 16, or disabled children under the age of 18, to request flexible hours. But the Children and Families Bill, which is slowly making its way through parliament, will extend this ‘right to request’ to all employees. Employers have to reasonably consider all requests but they can refuse if they have good reasons.
And it would seem many organisations do exercise the right to say no. Research from Working Families and Bright Horizons has found that flexi-hours remain elusive for many parents (31 per cent).
The Working Families report, Time, Health and the Family, launched yesterday, showed that education, retail and healthcare were the three sectors least likely to offer staff flexible working. And, unsurprisingly, barring parents from working more flexibly creates resentment. But the group who felt most aggrieved were found to be young fathers aged 26-35. In addition, fathers with a single child tended to be more resentful towards their employers than those with more than one child.
The report showed that the majority of responsibility for emergency childcare still falls on the mother, with mums being called first when things go wrong at school or with childcare. The only group that reported a different experience was young fathers aged between 26-35, who said that they were almost as likely to be called as their partner. Organisations like nurseries and schools still seem to operate on the assumption that the mother is the main carer.
Most families also said that work impinges on family life to some extent, with more than 40 per cent admitting that this happens often or all of the time. Those who found their family time most disrupted were, again, young fathers aged between 26-35.
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: “It is clear that expectations for work life balance are changing, particularly among younger working fathers. This is a quiet revolution in attitudes, which may have long-lasting impact in the workplace.
“The male employee, focused full-time on his work, is becoming a museum piece. Tomorrow’s workers, male and female, will expect time and space for their family lives and responsibilities alongside their work.”
Jackson said she was “struck” by how many parents told her organisation that their employer will not give them access to flexible working.
“Over 90 per cent of UK organisations say they offer at least one form of flexible working and so we must conclude that employers need to improve their communications about the possible options. What’s not known about, won’t be asked for.
“If resentment builds up about lack of flexibility, performance will suffer,” she added.
Commenting on the delay to new rules on flexible working, Denise Keating, chief executive of the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, said: “It’s a shame that the legislation that will allow the right to request flexible working for all could be delayed. Moving towards flexible working for everyone is important in this ever changing world. Leading employers recognised this many years ago and are already offering formal and informal flexibility to their staff.”