On the 16th July, South West Bedfordshire MP, Andrew Selous supported the reading of Helen Whately MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill, which reads that all employers should offer flexible working in employment contracts and to subsequently advertise vacancies as suitable for flexible working.
There was a wide range of support for this Bill, both from MPs, campaigners and charities alike. In attendance for the reading were: Helen Whately MP, Sir Roger Gale MP, Stella Creasy MP, Rosie Duffied MP, Ellie Reeves MP, Rachel Mclean MP, Kirstene Hair MP, Andrew Selous MP and Tracy Brabin MP. Similarly, campaigners and charities who support such a Bill are: Fatherhood Institute, Fawcett Society, Papa Pukka, Young Women’s Trust and Pregnant Then Screwed. This plethora of endorsers is a testament to importance of offering a level playing field to all those applying for jobs, regardless of circumstance.
This is an extremely vital and progressive bill, ensuring that working contracts, advertisements and conditions are compatible with the modern era. Currently, there is a significant dichotomy between the 9 out of 10 people who want to work flexibly and the 1 in 10 jobs that are advertised as flexible. This disconnect means there are many individuals who are unable to get a job based on their abilities or traps others in part-time work which is often low paid where they are undervalued based on their skillset. It is reasons like this that the issue raised in Ten Minute Rule Bill regarding flexible working is a fundamental piece of legislation.
Not only do employers and companies seek flexible workers, there are many other positives to this bill. Firstly, 96% of employers already offer some form of flexible working, meaning it would be easy to accommodate other forms of flexibility listed under the bill. Secondly, it will be economically beneficial to society too. Flexible working has shown to increase productivity, staff wellbeing, staff retention and company research. Flexibility indicates to the employee that they are valued, and their voices are heard, breaking the common void between the staff and company hierarchy. A truly eye-opening statistic which conveys such benefits, collated by McKinsey, shows that enabling women to achieve their full potential in the workplace, including through widening the flexibility threshold, could add £148 billion to the UK economy by 2030. This astronomical sum is further consolidated by seeing that when fathers work flexibly and share the childcare, mothers are twice as likely to advance in their careers as when fathers work traditionally. (Frith, 2016)
These findings are made all the more buoyant when you look at companies who have implemented flexible working. Following internal analysis into their gender pay gap in March this year, Zurich made it a top priority to hone in on what was causing such problems. Subsequently, Zurich applied flexible working, referred to as FlexWork, to address said issues. This is agile working (referred to as FlexWork) which is their internal programme to enable maximum flexibility with minimum constraints; this might involve flexing locations, working hours or style dependant on circumstance.
What they found was that 72% of employees enjoy FlexWork which is agreed on an individual to manager or team basis. Moreover, since the launch of this initiative, Zurich has seen a 25% increase in the number of females applying for jobs across all levels of the business and a huge 45% in senior positions. This perfectly personifies the impact flexible work can have for females searching for work along with enabling the working environment to be fair to all without unorthodox conditions hindering opportunities.
Speaking after the reading of the bill, South West Bedfordshire MP, Andrew Selous said:
“It is excellent news to see MPs taking such a proactive approach to addressing flexibility in the workplace. The reading of the Ten Minute Rule Bill regarding flexible working is certainly a step in the right direction.
It is imperative that we make both workers and those going for interviews feel that their circumstance would not be detrimental to their career prospects. Flexible working ensures that our employment tactics match the modern world we live in. Nevertheless, it is absolutely vital that we advertise such flexibility, with currently only 1 in 10 employers advertising flexible working for new positions. I will continue to support both Parliament and businesses in our quest for fair and flexible working conditions.”
Whilst there is a clear consensus that flexible working needs to be put at the forefront of employment and working conditions, it is essential that this is put into law. Not only will this protect the economy for the future but simultaneously improve people’s work life balance. Once enshrined in law, the Government can make sure that genuine flexibility is given within organisations.
Flexible working should not be used a pawn or reward for hard work, it should be the cornerstone of the modern working environment. Parliament will continue to debate and make amendments to this bill, ensuring it is what is effective and reliable for those seeking a job in the future.