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Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill

Volume 831: debated on Friday 14 July 2023

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, I thank all those who have been involved in the progress of this Bill and in getting us to this stage. Most of all, I thank my honourable friend the Member for Bolton South East, Yasmin Qureshi. At Second Reading, one Member of this House described the Bill as being put forward by the “Bolton mafia”. We not only plead guilty but are very flattered by that description—we will wear it well. I also thank Ministers in the department, who have been extremely helpful on the progress of this Bill in both Houses, and the civil servants behind them, who have prepared assiduously detailed briefings. We are all very grateful for the help that we have had.

This is a very modest Bill—most Private Members’ Bills that succeed must have a certain degree of modesty—but that does not mean it is insignificant. It will make significant changes that will be of real benefit to quite a few people. We spoke at Second Reading of the changes that have taken place in work patterns. This Bill allows all employees to have more rights in respect of their need for flexible working. Flexible working has increased a lot in recent years, but just yesterday the British Chambers of Commerce pointed out in its press release that there are significant disparities in who can get it and which sectors have been responsive so far. The BCC and trade unions have welcomed this Bill, and many pressure groups that have followed the progress of this issue have made positive contributions.

The Bill will help make flexible working more available to more people and allow people in a broader range of circumstances to be able to contribute fully to our economy; it must benefit everyone. It is a small but significant measure, and I am very pleased and grateful for all the support the House has given to its passage.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, for bringing the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill through the House. The Government have been pleased to support the Bill throughout all its stages, in line with our 2019 manifesto, which committed to promote flexible working. I am pleased to continue that support today at Third Reading and am very grateful for the cross-party support that the Bill has received.

The successful passage of this Bill will introduce changes to the existing right to request flexible working, which will be made alongside the Government’s commitment to make the right to request flexible working available from the first day of employment. The changes represent a timely, sensible and proportionate update to the right to request flexible working and reflect what many employers already do. They will particularly support those who need to balance their work and personal lives and may as a result find it harder to participate in the labour market. From older workers to new parents and those with disabilities or long-term health conditions, this Bill will be an important step in supporting their ability to remain and progress in work.

I am very pleased to support the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill. It is a meaningful step in the right direction to help employers and employees agree work arrangements that fit with life. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, for her sponsorship of the Bill as it has moved through this House, and the honourable Member Yasmin Qureshi and my honourable friend Kevin Hollinrake for their sponsorship in the other place and hard work in putting this Bill forward.

My Lords, I briefly add my thanks for the smooth passage of this Bill. I pay tribute to the Bolton mafia and, in particular, my noble friend Lady Taylor of Bolton. I also thank the Minister for his support going forward.

We were all struck by the moving testimonies at Second Reading; I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, who said, “Flexible working—why wouldn’t you?” That absolutely summed it up. A cultural shift is happening. As we know, many companies are already on board and getting great benefit from a more flexible approach to their workforce.

I cannot let this moment pass without referencing our culture; I note that at Second Reading there were 10 noble Baronesses on the Front Bench.

I say an enormous thank you to everyone who has assisted with this in both Houses and look forward to the next steps that will follow once the Bill is enacted.

Bill passed.