It was just 15 minutes. That’s all I needed to pick-up my daughter from nursery on time. I was working as a senior copywriter and my flexible working request was rejected because it might ‘open the floodgates’ to others with caring responsibilities.
I left, I quit, I broke and I felt redundant - like the 54,000 women every year who lose their jobs for simply having a baby. That was seven years ago, and yet we still hear old school comments like this morning on Radio 4, where one man asked ‘why should you be able to work-part on full pay’. Comments like these are nonsensical, and yet they can be the very people deciding your flexible fate.
Today, proposals from the government have revealed that they are planning to move flexible working requests from 26 weeks to day 1. People will no longer have to jump over hurdles to ask the question. Plus employers will now need to justify their response using hard facts, not lofty ‘business reasons’ often slanted by personal preference.
We need flexible working to be the default exception of any job unless otherwise stated and justified.
And employers will need to respond more quickly - there is a suggestion that the timeframe that employers have to respond will be much quicker. Those who need flex can’t wait for three months to hear.
Seven years on it feels like the floodgates are creaking open.
A new CIPD survey has just revealed that employers are now increasing flexibility and work-life balance to attract and retain staff. They shared that 60% of organisations are increasing homeworking following the pandemic, and 71% are advertising some vacancies as open to flex, with 49% advertising that they are open to the location they work from. This is progress.
But aren’t there yet. We need flexible working to be the default exception of any job unless otherwise stated and justified. There’s more work to be done, and we won’t stop until we get there.
Because for all the business blather of ‘it won’t work for us’, flexible working isn’t just about getting to the school gates on time; it’s not solely for exhausted mothers wanting more time with their Weetabix-smattered offspring.
On a base level it’s about inclusivity. When you take away the walls and the commute, you let more people with disabilities in. When you take away the rigid hours, you enable people with caring responsibilities and with mental health issues in. And when you advertise flexibility in roles, you open the door to greater diversity in the workplace. It’s not about where someone is sitting, it’s about who you are including at the table.
Now’s the time to do more than talk about flex.