A recent survey carried out by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that half of the UK’s working mothers are denied flexible working or only had their request partially accepted. It also found that 86% of women who worked flexibly had faced discrimination or other disadvantages as a result. A further 42% stated they would fear discrimination if they requested flexible working at a job interview and an equal percentage would fear discrimination if they requested flexible during employment.
Frances O’Grady, the TUC secretary general, was reported to have said “the current system is broken. Employers still have free rein to turn down requests for flexible working. And women are too scared to ask for flexible working at job interviews, for fear of being discriminated against.”
These findings are deeply concerning to many women who are struggling to redefine their work/life balance during and following the pandemic. Many warned at the start of the pandemic that the changes to working life and patterns during the last 18 months may disproportionately affect women. It appears the government’s recent consultation to extend current flexible working rights may be too little too late for some and there doesn’t appear to be a focus on women and others who are particularly affected by these issues.
Other suggestions to help engender a flexible workforce and to assist women include greater transparency in flexible working practices, with much the same intention as gender pay gap reporting requirements. One suggestion was to require companies to publish flexible working options with job adverts.
It appears many are dissatisfied with the current flexible working regime and there are concerns the government’s proposed changes do not go far enough to create the cultural and social change required to really make flexible working the default for many.
A recent related case regarding a new mother being refused flexible working can be found here.