A Bolton MP is leading efforts to give workers more right to ask for “flexible working” by proposing a new law.
Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi says that she was inspired by seeing how “millions of people” benefited from flexible working, meaning working partly from home and partly in workplaces, during the pandemic.
On Friday, she gave second reading to the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill which if it becomes law will give employees more opportunity to work like this.
Ms Qureshi said: “While the Bill may not resolve all the concerns on access to flexible working, it is a step in the right direction, towards that end.
“The Bill aims to set the right conditions for employees and employers to have open-minded conversations about what flexible working arrangements might be possible in any given context.
“The idea is to simplify and normalise the process of making and responding to flexible working requests, bringing benefits to employees and employers alike.”
Ms Qureshi added that campaigners believe it is currently “too easy” for an employer to reject a request for flexible working.
She said: “This measure hopefully will prevent employers from just saying no without engaging with the employee as to why.
“We hope this will bring a culture shift.”
If it becomes law, the bill will require employers to consult with workers before rejecting their flexible working request and will allow make two statutory requests in any year long period.
The bill will also reduce the decision period within which an employer needs to administer a request from three months to two months.
It will mean that workers will no longer have to explain what effect the change would have on the employer and how that might be dealt with.
Ms Qureshi says she believes this could end up benefiting both employees and employers alike.
She said: “It is my intention that these measures will help to secure more flexible working where it meets the needs of both individuals and businesses.
“That they will encourage a more constructive dialogue about flexible working and prompt both the employer and employee to focus on identifying an arrangement that might be possible, rather than what is not.”
After hearing the proposal from Ms Qureshi in the House of Commons the government has said they will be willing to support the move to more flexible working.
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Business minister Kevin Hollinrake MP said: “The government is committed to ensuring the UK is the best place in the world to work and grow a business, and to do this we need a strong and flexible labour market which supports participation and economic growth.
“Really what this Bill does, it formalises good working practice, so I am pleased to confirm the government will support it.”