Parental guidance on flexible working

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Parental guidance on flexible working


shutterstock_49893733More and more frequently, men and women are requesting flexible working arrangements to assist them in creating a better work life balance.


Since 2003, parents have had the right to request flexible working from their employer after a period of 26 weeks of continuous employment. However, studies have shown that the majority of those who have taken up flexible working have been women.


Key challenges


Two recent reports by ACAS and the TUC have highlighted that parents do not always feel as though they get enough support in the workplace. The reports identify key challenges parents face. These include:

  • having uncertain working hours,
  • difficulty in using employment rights due to the lack of pay,
  • workplace culture which discourages employees from seeking support,
  • struggling to retain career paths,
  • diminished opportunity for promotion,
  • forgoing time spent with children. 

Take up of flexible working


Although available to all, studies have shown that men are much less likely to request and be granted flexible working than women. It has been suggested that men may be afraid to request flexible working due to the fear of not looking committed to their role, and stalling their career development.  Women who work flexibly have said that they accept being overlooked as a price they have to pay whilst raising their family.


Many parents are sceptical about the right to request flexible working. There are concerns that a successful request depends upon the relationship with a line manager - it is often seen that the right to work flexibly has to be ‘earned’. There is a strong sense that employers can always find a reason to reject the request.


Maternity and Paternity Leave


Whilst women may be encouraged to take maternity leave, engage with ‘keep in touch’ processes, and be given guidance on flexible working once they return to work, it has been noted that men are often treated differently in this respect.


Many organisations now offer enhanced maternity leave which increases maternity pay beyond the statutory minimum. An enhanced paternity package however, is much less common.


A perceived lack of support from employers was the main reason as to why some men choose to take less paternity leave than they are entitled to and not take up shared parental leave. It is also noted that it is a financial disincentive for a father to take longer than two weeks paternity leave. 




Many organisations have now implemented flexible working policies. To ensure that these policies are employer driven, employers should consider looking at the kinds of flexible working which suit the business and actively encourage flexible working for all. Employers should make sure that they are always consistent in their approach to employees requesting flexible working.


As it is often line managers who make decisions in regards to flexible working requests, they should be given adequate training and support to make decisions which meet the needs of both the employer and the employee. This will provide them with the skills they need to partake in difficult conversations with their staff, and also reduce unconscious bias around flexible working. Line managers should also be given training in managing a flexible team.


60% of employees have carried out some form of flexible working during the last year. The ability to work flexibly can enable people who would otherwise be forced to stop work to remain in the labour market. Introducing flexible working at the point of hire as well as for existing employees will allow businesses to tap into this great talent pool.


This article was published in Travel Trade Gazette on 2 November 2017.

Rebecca Jorgensen, Head of EmploymentFor more information
, please contact Rebecca Jorgensen, Head of Employment.

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Published: 3 Nov 2017

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