The reality of flexible working for working mums


The government’s proposals in their latest consultation on flexible working fall far short of their aim of making flexible working the default.

To unlock the flexibility in all jobs and for all workers the government should introduce:

  •  a legal duty on employers to consider which flexible working arrangements are available in a role and publish these in job advertisements, with the new postholder having a day one right to take up the flexible working arrangements that have been advertised. If an employer does not think that any flexible working arrangements are possible, they should be required to set out the exceptional circumstances that justify this decision.
  • a day-one right to request flexible working for all workers, with the criteria for rejection mirroring the exceptional circumstances set out above. Workers should have a right to appeal and no restrictions on the number of flexible working requests made.


Employers do not need to wait for legislative change in making genuine flexible work the default in their workplaces and ensuring that all workers have the opportunity to benefit from positive flexibility that helps them to balance work and home life.

Employers should include the specific types of flexibility available in job adverts with the postholder being able to take this up on the first day of the job.

In our ‘Future of flexible working’ report, we have published a set of principles that employers should follow when implementing flexible working. These include important measures to ensure flexible working becomes the norm for all workers, tackle negative workplace cultures and stereotyped attitudes towards flexible working and ensure that those who work flexibly are not disadvantaged or discriminated against.

Employers should monitor the implementation of flexible working to ensure it is promoting equality. This may be particularly important for employers introducing hybrid ways of working following the pandemic, as research suggests blanket approaches can lead negative impacts for women.

Trade unions

Trade unions should:

  • work with employers to review flexible working policies and practices and should negotiate for increased access to flexible working and for the protections outlined in our principles. Trade unions are best placed to ensure the needs of employers and preferences of staff are reconciled through constructive dialogue and negotiation.
  • train reps in negotiating for flexible work policies and supporting members with flexible working requests. Unions should train reps in organising hybrid workforces, where members may be spread across different locations and working different hours.
  •  monitor the impact of flexible working and negotiate for any necessary changes in the future.

For more detail on our recommendations on flexible working, see our Future of flexible working report.

Download denied and discriminated against full report (pdf)

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