New report from Working Families

 The COVID-19 pandemic has meant an unprecedented situation bringing a unique set of challenges and circumstances. Families have been in the eye of the storm. A new report from work-life balance charity Working Families draws upon the experiences of both parents and employers to outline what ‘building back better’ looks like for working families.

The pandemic has demonstrated that flexibility is possible in many, many more jobs than were previously advertised on this basis. But without intervention, the UK labour market will be split even more sharply into flexible working ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. The report calls for the forthcoming Employment Bill to create ‘flexistability’: a labour market and rights framework where all parents and carers can access and progress in quality, permanent, genuinely two-sided flexible work. Being able to balance work and care should not be a luxury found only amongst leading employers: legislating so that jobs are advertised flexibly as the norm and so that flexibility is available from day one of the job will level the flexibility playing field.

Too often, caring responsibilities have been invisible in the government’s economic response to the pandemic. Polling for this report found that one in five working parents (20%) felt they had been treated less fairly at work due to their childcare responsibilities since the pandemic began. This equates to 2.6 million people across the UK. The Government has stated that parents who are simply unable to work in their usual way due to the pandemic should be ‘defended and protected’. The report recommends that adding caring responsibilities to the list of protected characteristics in the Equality Act would be the best way to provide a legal foundation on which to tackle workplace discrimination against mothers and fathers.