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19 June, 2020 Open access

Working Families calls on government to continue the ‘unlocking’ of flexible working achieved during lockdown by reforming ‘outdated’ statutory rules

Charity's call for reform responds to survey findings showing parents and carers want more autonomy over flexible hours and where work is carried out, and a 'cultural shift' in attitudes to flexible working

Working Families has called on the government to continue the 'unlocking' of flexible working achieved during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown by reforming 'outdated' flexible working rules.

In COVID-19 and flexible working: the perspective from working parents and carers, Working Families - a charity supporting working parents, carers, and their employers, achieve a better balance between home and work life - reports findings from a survey of more than 1,000 working parents and carers during the pandemic that show that 84 per cent of the group are now working flexibly compared to 65 per cent who had flexible working opportunities before the outbreak.

In addition, the charity finds that -

However, Working Families highlights that 13 per cent of parents and carers said they would like to make changes to their working patterns but didn’t think it would be an option after lockdown. In addition, the charity identifies that parents wanted three general shifts in flexible working: more autonomy to flex hours across the working week; more flexibility over where work is carried out; and a cultural shift in attitudes to flexible working. 

Calling for government action - as part of its new #flextheUK campaign - to build on the increase in flexible working during lockdown, Working Families recommends that the government reforms 'outdated' statutory rights to flexible working and acts on previous commitments to ensure employers are advertising jobs flexibly.

Commenting on the polling results and the need for improved rights to flexible working, Chief Executive of Working Families Jane van Zyl says -

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has been an enormous challenge for working parents and carers left without childcare. Many have had to work early in the morning or late into the night so they can look after - and in many cases home-school - their children, leaving them stressed and exhausted. Whilst the kind of flexible working parents have experienced during lockdown is far from ideal, what it has done is prove that flexibility can be unlocked in many more jobs than previously thought.

It is vital that the government acts to ensure that the progress made around flexible working during lockdown is extended, not reversed, for all parents, and that employers can harness the increases in productivity, talent attraction, and diversity that flexible working will bring to the UK economy. We simply can’t go back to a time where long hours and being the last person in the office are seen as a mark of success.’

For more information see Working parents and carers call for more flexible working post-COVID-19 from workingfamilies.org.uk