Peter Cheese to continue role as Co-Chair of Flexible Working Task Force

On 9 February, Small Business Minister Paul Scully wrote to CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese confirming he will continue his role as Co-Chair of the Government’s Flexible Working Task Force

The minister has commissioned a further eighteen months of work for the Flexible Working Task Force, which brings together policy-makers, employer groups, unions and professional bodies. The future of its work will help to inform the Government’s thinking as it develops new policies in response to changes in the way people work that has been brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Task Force was initially convened in early 2018 to bring together different expertise and perspectives on how to promote wider understanding and implementation of flexible working practices. It ran for an initial eighteen months and saw members develop evidence, understanding and common purpose of the most effective ways to increase flexible working provision across businesses of all sizes and in all sectors.

The focus of the Task Force moving forward, will be on learnings from the pandemic and using these to develop policies and practices that will support employers and workers to adapt to new ways of working. Two objectives set by minister Scully are:

  • Understanding and supporting the change to ‘hybrid’ and other ways of working which are emerging because of the pandemic.
  • Longer term, understanding whether there is more to be done to promote ‘ad hoc’ or ‘non-contractual’ flexible working.

Its first task is a six-month assignment to identify the key issues relating to what has recently entered the lexicon as ‘hybrid’ work – a mixture of workplace and home-working – that is widely thought of as one of the impacts of the pandemic on working life that will be here to stay. The role of the Task Force will be to draw on the lessons learnt by employers over the course of the pandemic, examine best practice and potential pitfalls and develop guidance for employers. This will be aimed at supporting businesses in navigating the challenges, issues, and opportunities for these new ways of working.

Membership of the Task Force alongside the CIPD include the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Trades Union Congress (TUC), Age UK, Carers UK, Timewise Foundation, Working Families, Acas, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Treasury. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Make UK have recently been asked to join.

#FlexFrom1st

The letter to Peter came just a week after the CIPD launched its #FlexFrom1st campaign, calling on employers to support flexible working for all and pushing for the right to request flexible working to be made a day-one right. Our research found that nearly half of employees (44%) reported they didn’t have any flexible working arrangements, such as flexi-time, compressed hours, job shares or part-time The work of the #FlexFrom1st campaign will complement CIPD’s input into the Task Force, sharing our learnings, evidence and case studies over the course of the year.

Pushing for a change in the law

Another aspect of the CIPD’s campaign is to ask the Government to change the law so that the right to request flexible working is a day-one right. At present, an employee needs to have worked for the employer for 26 weeks to qualify and are limited to one request per year. We are still waiting for the Government to publish its long-awaited consultation on making flexible working the default, in which we’ll be making the case for making this change. We’re hoping this will be published within the next few months and will ensure there is a lot of opportunity for member input into our response. At the same time, we also await Government responses to several consultations ran in late-2019 looking at implementing family-friendly working policies – one of which focused specifically on creating greater transparency around employer’s flexible working and parental leave policies. In our regular conversations with government officials, we continue to push for these to be published and the Government to introduce its Employment Bill into Parliament.

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