Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about flexible working. I agree that we need legislation on this issue and that a right to flexible working should be the default for all workers.

As you know, the Government promised in the 2019 general election that it would “encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to”. It then repeated this promise in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech, saying that it would do so through an Employment Bill. However, it failed to bring forward this Bill during the 2019-21 Parliament and made no mention of it in the 2021 Queen’s Speech in May. It now says it will bring forward the Employment Bill “when parliamentary time allows” and that the consultation on making flexible working the default will “happen in due course”.

I believe it is time for the Government to deliver on what it has promised. We need legislation to be introduced to enshrine workers’ rights to flexible and remote working, alongside a plan to support small and medium-sized business to adapt to flexible working. Without it we risk establishing a two-tier workforce as we emerge from the pandemic, with some people and parts of the country benefiting from a move to flexible working, while young people, key workers and other parts of the country face the prospect of losing out. We also risk one-sided flexibility that allows employers to dictate terms to their workers when it comes to flexible working arrangements.

With a proper right to flexible working, on the other hand, people will have more control over their lives and a better work-life balance that will benefit women workers and be a step forward in the fight for gender equality in the workplace.

The Flexible Working Bill passed its First Reading in the House of Commons on 30 June 2021 and is scheduled to have its Second Reading on 19 November. However, it is currently some way down the Order Paper for consideration on that day and as a Private Member’s Bill is unlikely to make much progress through Parliament unless it gains the backing of the Government. I can nevertheless assure you that I will continue to support calls for action and efforts to press the Government on this issue.

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