The government is considering extending flexible working to all staff from day one of employment, the work and pensions secretary has revealed.
Yvette Cooper revealed the government was working with employers to investigate the possibility of extending the right to request flexible working “from the beginning” of a new job.
Last week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission called for flexible working rights to be extended to all workers, not just parents and carers.
Current rules on flexible working requests are limited to parents of children under 16 and carers, but Cooper wants to extend this.
She told the Guardian: “You want people to offer flexible working from the beginning and we need to look again at how the legislation can support different ways of doing that.
“A lot of employers have found that offering the right to request flexible working more widely actually helped them in their business, and they’ve been willing to look at it for employees in all circumstances.”
Cooper admitted extending flexible working would not work in all organisations, but said a cultural change was needed.
She said: “There will be some areas where it’s not possible to fit round particular school hours or particular things where the nature of the business makes it hard – but what you need is the cultural change for everybody to think differently.”
But David Yeandle, head of employment policy at manufacturers’ organisation the EEF, told Personnel Today he “strongly objected” to the proposal.
“Making this a ‘day one right’ would cut across a very important part of the right for employees to request flexible working procedure, which is that, when making their request, employees should indicate how they feel their request can be accommodated by their employer,” he said.
“This clearly requires employees to have some knowledge and understanding of their employer’s business and operational arrangements, which they will only be able to have after having worked for their employer for a reasonable period, and we feel that the minimum period for this is 26 weeks.”
He added trust between an employer and employee was an essential component of successful flexible working practices, and this could only be developed over time.