A poll by the TUC has suggested there could be an “emerging class divide” when it comes to future home-working arrangements.
The union body argues that working class jobs have less access to home working, or that employees in these roles are more likely to have flexible working requests refused.
Its poll found that 60% of people in higher-paid occupations had worked from home during the pandemic, compared to 23% in working-class, lower-paid jobs.
It also showed that one in six employers would not offer flexible working to those who had not been able to work from home during the pandemic, compared to just 6% saying they would offer flexibility to those who had been able to work from home.
This is despite the TUC’s research revealing that 82% of workers across all occupations want to take up some form of flexible working in the future.
Workers seek flexibility not just in terms of location but also in hours. Almost two-thirds (64%) of workers said they were looking for flexibility in hours, such as flexi-time (23%), part-time (15%), predictable hours (9%), compressed hours (8%), term-time working (6%) and annualised hours (4%).
Only 54% said they have a right in their current job to request a change to their regular working hours to fit around other commitments. Nine per cent would like “mutually agreed predictable hours” after the pandemic, rising to 13% in working-class occupations.
Yesterday (17 June) the government clarified that a proposed consultation on making flexible working a default option in employment contracts “would not necessarily mean working from home” and that there are currently “no plans to make working from home the default, or to introduce a legal right to work from home”.
Almost two-thirds of those surveyed by the TUC believe that working people should get flexible working as a day-one right.
8 July 2021 – Register now | Live webinar examining what hybrid working means for leadership and inclusion, and how employers can prepare staff and managers.
The union federation, which represents 48 affiliated unions and 5.5 million members, has called upon the government to “urgently modernise” the right to flexible working by making it an element of the long-awaited Employment Bill.
The TUC wants the right to include:
- The right to work remotely for some or all of the time, with greater control over hours
- A duty to include flexible working options when advertising jobs
- A ban on zero-hours contracts and more rights on choice of shifts/notice of shifts
- A right to disconnect
- Stronger rights for workers to access unions to campaign for flexible working policies.
“Working people adapted brilliantly to the challenges of the pandemic. They made sure businesses survived and kept our vital services running,” said general secretary Frances O’Grady. “Lots of people worked from home – while others went out to work every day.
“As the UK gets back to normal, lots of workers will want to keep the flexibility of working from home. But no-one, whether they can work from home or not, should miss out on flexible working options that help them do their job and manage their other responsibilities too.
“Government must bring in a new right to flexible working for every worker, in every job. Otherwise people in working-class jobs will miss out – while those who can work from home get the benefits of flexible working.
“This emerging class divide in access to flexible working is no way to thank those workers who carried on doing their job in workplaces throughout the pandemic. Ministers should seize the moment and make Britain a world leader in flexible working rights.”