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Flexible futures

19 April, 2024

Great news! Starting a new job in England, Scotland, or Wales? You’ve got the green light to request flexible working right from day one. And when we say flexible, we don’t just mean working from home. You can opt for part-time hours, flexitime, job sharing, staggered shifts, or hybrid working. With the UK’s average commute clocking in at a hefty 59 minutes, flexible working is a game-changer, improving work-life balance and accommodating workers with additional responsibilities outside of work.

Flexibility isn’t just about convenience, it’s about inclusivity too. By embracing flexible working, businesses open their doors to a whole new pool of talent while also promoting gender equality. In the UK, 38% of women in employment worked part-time, compared with 14% of men.  This imbalance perpetuates the gender pay gap and penalises women in retirement while also entrenching social norms surrounding women and part-time work. Normalizing and enhancing flexible working options can encourage more men to seek flexible arrangements and share caring responsibilities. Additionally, it can help ensure that flexibility does not necessarily equate to reduced hours or pay, circumstances that often lead to women facing limited job opportunities and earning potential after having children.

But while we are cheering on this new law, let’s remember, asking for flexible work doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. Employers still have the final say and are not required to accept these requests if business conditions don’t permit it. So, while it is easier than ever to request flexibility, there’s still work to be done before flexible working isn’t seen as just a perk but a fundamental part of how we work.

By Meg Seckel

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