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Everyone should have right to request flexible work, says Minister

The Minister for Children, Young People and Families, Beverley Hughes, has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons by calling for the right to request flexible work to be extended to all workers.

The call is expressed in a forthcoming book to be published by think-tank IPPR, Politics for a New Generation: The Progressive Movement to celebrate 10 years of Labour government.

Ms Hughes feels that all workers should be able to work part-time, with flexible hours or at home, otherwise flexible working risks being pigeon-holed as an issue just for working mothers.  She goes on to argue the relevance in terms of the business benefits, and also in terms of people's aspirations for a life outside work and social change with an ageing society.  She writes:

"Many working people say they feel time-squeezed. With more women at work, an ageing population and many people aspiring to volunteer or to further develop their skills, government and employers need to recognise that balancing work and life is an issue that's not going away".

The call should come as no surprise to flexibility readers.  Back in 2003 when the "right to request" provisions came in we said they were a deliberate "Trojan Horse" set up by the government to breach the citadel of workplace conservatism.

The current provisions are a start, but inherently discriminatory, and cannot be justified in the long run.  And once employers find that the sky will not fall, the right can be extended to everyone.

Flexibility, of course, welcomes her statement - which would not have been made or or trailed in advance like this unless it had official blessing, at least as a means of sounding out the response.

Work-life Balance - an issue for government

Balancing work and life is an issue that's not going away, according to UK Children and Families Minister Beverley Hughes MP.

With the government already extending the "right to request" flexible work to carers, Ms Hughes sees it as being a "natural progression" to extend it to the whole workforce, whether or not they have parental or other caring responsibilities.

Beverley Hughes is right.  But with the Conservatives also staking their claims as champions of flexible working, perhaps we're starting to see the beginning of a "bidding" war amongst the parties to be the most flexible!

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