Government “must go further” on flexible working rights

Date Posted: Monday 24th July 2023

Employment RelationsFlexible Working BillWomen and Employment

In an important first step, the Flexible Working Bill became law on 20 July 2023. But it does not go far enough. Alongside unions and campaigners, the Women’s Budget Group signed a joint statement put forward by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) calling on the Government to make flexible working a genuine legal right from the first day in a job and unlock the flexibility in all jobs.

Joint Statement on Employment Relations Bill (Flexible Working Bill)

The Employment Relations Bill (Flexible Working) Bill yesterday reached royal assent. More than twenty organisations have come together to welcome the Act and call for further action.

After years of campaigning for stronger rights to flexible working, we welcome today’s announcement that the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill has reached royal assent and thank Yasmin Qureshi MP and Baroness Taylor of Bolton for sponsoring the legislation.

Most importantly we want to thank the thousands of people who fought tirelessly to raise awareness of the importance of flexible working for everyone. Your actions got us here.

The Act will strengthen the rights that employees have when requesting flexible working and the government have committed to introducing a day one right to request flexible working for all employees alongside the Act.

Whilst this is an important step, the government must go further to create inclusive and flexible work for everyone.

Mums, dads, disabled people (including those with Long Covid), carers and older workers are just some of the groups that we know are more likely to need flexibility to get into work, stay and progress. And flexible working is important for everyone to achieve better work life balance and make time for life outside work.

But even with the new legislation, those who need flexibility to work will be forced to ask what arrangements are available in the recruitment process. We know many applicants don’t mention flexible working due to justified fears of discrimination or rejection – new TUC polling shows that half of new dads and partners entitled to paternity leave didn’t get any or all of the flexibility they requested from their employer. A day one right to request flexible working will not fix this and does not require employers to think about how to design flexibility into their roles

To truly meet their manifesto commitment to make flexible working the default, the government must require employers to include all possible flexible working options in job adverts. This is a small, simple change that would make a huge difference to working people and mean they know before they apply if a job works for them and underlines an employer’s commitment to make flexible working work for everyone.

Six in ten HR managers polled by the TUC said it would be easy to include specific information about the flexibility in location or hours available in each role in each job advert, or they already do this. Making this good-practice mandatory would make a day one right to flexible working a reality for many.

Unlocking flexibility for all would help to tackle labour shortages, retain people who need flexibility to work, reduce inequalities and improve progression opportunities.   Making flexibility the default from day one would be good for working people, good for employers and good for the economy.


  • Paul Nowak, General Secretary, TUC
  • Jemima Olchawski, CEO, Fawcett Society
  • Kamran Mallick, CEO, Disability Rights UK
  • Anna Whitehouse, CEO and Founder, Mother Pukka
  • Elliott Rae, MusicFootballFatherhood
  • Victoria Benson, CEO, Gingerbread
  • Adrienne Burgess and Kathy Jones, Joint CEOs, Fatherhood Institute
  • Svetlana Kotova, Director of Campaigns and Justice, Inclusion London
  • Taryn Robinson, Pregnant Then Screwed
  • Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, UK Women’s Budget Group
  • Charlotte Woodworth, Director Gender Equality, Business in the Community
  • Jo Dainow, Chair of Trustees, Long Covid Support
  • Claire Reindorp, CEO, Young Women’s Trust
  • Priya Sahni-Nicholas and Jo Wittams, Co-Executive Directors, The Equality Trust
  • Ros Bragg, Director, Maternity Action
  • Ellen Clifford, National Steering Group Member, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
  • James Taylor, Executive Director, Strategy, Impact and Social Change, Scope
  • Justine Roberts CBE, Founder and CEO, Mumsnet
  • Catherine Hale, Head of Astriid Consulting
  • Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director, Age UK
  • Abi Levitt, Interim CEO, Timewise.