Employers could be forced to offer staff flexible working under new plans

EMPLOYERS could be forced to offer all staff flexible working hours from the moment they take on a new job.

The proposed changes have been put forward by Conservative MP Helen Whately who says it will help parents share childcare duties and reduce the gender pay gap.

As it stands, employees can apply for flexible working as long as they've been in the job for at least six months, but it's up to bosses to decide whether to give it or not.

Conservative MP Helen Whately put forward a Private Members Bill in Parliament this week that would make flexible working hours a default option for workers.

Like current rules, the option would be available to workers who don't have children too.

While employers would still be able to refuse requests, Mrs Whately argues that it would "shift the norm".

The bill was given approval to go to a second reading – although it's not yet been announced when this will be – but it is unlikely to become law unless it gets government support.

The MP told the Commons on Tuesday that the 40-hour five-day working week made sense in a time when only one adult worked to support the household, but now it's out of date.

She said: "At the moment, too many women are reluctantly dropping out of work or going part-time after having children because their employers won't allow them flexibility.

"This entrenches the assumption that men are the breadwinners and women are the homemakers.

"As a result, men don't get to spend as much time as they might like with their children, women miss out on career opportunities, and the country loses out on the contribution they could and would like to make – if only they could do slightly different hours or work some days from home."

The right to request flexible hours was introduced in 2014 but only 9.8 per cent of jobs that pay more than £20,000 advertise the option, according to the MP.

The option would help millions of parents who struggle to pay for extra childcare costs during the school holidays.

Paul Avis from Canada Life Group Insurance, said the bill would benefit employers as well as employees.

He said: "The benefits of flexible working are numerous. It has been evidenced to improve the working lives of employees, it can help to close the gender pay gap and support parents juggling jobs with childcare.

"But there are also clear business benefits to introducing flexible working. The main one is a vital boost to productivity. Compared to the US, Canada, Japan and Germany – UK businesses lag far behind in terms of productivity output."

Yesterday, we reported how bosses will have to pay casual workers if they cancel their shifts at short notice in a government clampdown.

The Sun has contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for comment and we'll update this story if we get one.

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