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Flexible Working

Volume 709: debated on Tuesday 22 February 2022

The Government strongly support flexible working. Only by championing a flexible and dynamic labour market will we grow our economy. I would like to thank the hon. Member for her response to the consultation we closed in December and I look forward to publishing our response in due course.

I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said and I am pleased that the Government are talking about making flexible working the default, but their proposal merely makes the existing right to request flexible working available from day one in the job. I am sure the Minister knows that that will do nothing to address the fact that a third of all requests for flexible working are rejected, which puts single parents and carers at a considerable disadvantage in the workplace and affects the recruitment process as well. What legislation will the Government undertake to address the fact that unscrupulous employers can pick on a range of often pathetic, unfair and broad reasons when they want to reject a request for flexible working? Will the Government be introducing any actual legislation, because that is what the Opposition want to support?

The hon. Member has reflected her consultation response in her questions. The consultation stuck to the principle that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working. We support the “right to request” framework, which facilitates an informed two-sided conversation but ensures that employers have the right to refuse requests that are unworkable within their business operations. Clearly, that will need to be robust if they feel that they need to reject a request because of the business situation.