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Workplace Equality: Flexible Working

Volume 654: debated on Thursday 7 February 2019

5. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on improving access to flexible working to increase workplace equality. (909065)

Flexible working is crucial to support women and men in balancing work and caring responsibilities. That is why the Government Equalities Office is working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the flexible working taskforce in using our research programmes to develop evidence-based guidance for employers.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but the right to request flexible working is not the same as an entitlement to work flexibly. Given that so many of these requests are refused and that the Government have said that they want to encourage flexible working, will they consider placing a duty on employers to advertise jobs as flexible?

We have announced our intention to consult on these very matters, but I would also say that, as that will take a little while, employers should not wait for it. We know that by offering flexible working they are going to have a bigger pool of talent from which to pick their employees.

Shared parental leave is as much about cultural change as it is about legislation. What is my right hon. Friend doing to help parents better understand and access shared parental leave?

We are doing a huge amount of work to look at what additional obstacles there might be, such as the bureaucracy in accessing provision, and we are also looking at the experience of those who have taken up and made use of shared parental leave. It is incredibly important that we change the culture and it will take time, but there are still some further things we can do to encourage that, and we are looking at them.

13. It is almost a year now since Labour launched its diversity charter challenge to embed diversity, including flexible working, in all sectors. Since then, the aerospace industry has launched its charter, techUK is working on a charter and the accountancy body the Association of Accounting Technicians is calling for charters for all business sectors. Will the Minister join these illustrious bodies, including the Labour party, and commit to making diversity charters a requirement for all sectors? (909073)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that there is some great work out there: 97% of businesses offer some form of flexible working—to tie this back to the original question—but only 68% of employees for whom that situation is available are taking up this option. I think this is changing, but there are further things we can do to encourage it. Sharing good practice is one of those things, and I think the charters have played a good role in that.

14. Will the Minister join me in commending Chwarae Teg in Wales for its work to encourage more flexible working through its “FairPlay Employer” status, and will she encourage more Government employers to seek this status, as has been achieved by the Intellectual Property Office in Newport? (909074)

I thank the hon. Lady for putting another example of good practice out there. I absolutely would encourage that. It is only by sharing good practice that we are going to be able to encourage employers that are not doing that to raise their game.