Although the government has just announced the right to request to work flexibly from day one of employment following a consultation at the end of 2021, this may not be good news for women who are much more likely than men to require flexible work arrangements that often penalise them in terms of their pay and job prospects.

According to research by the TUC, far more women than men work part-time (the most common form of flexible working). Overall, more than one in three women work part-time, compared to just one in nine men. According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, a woman working part-time is paid on average £5.40 an hour less than a man working full-time - a 33 per cent pay gap. Not only are part-time workers, on average, paid less than full-time workers, they also often have fewer career, pay and progression opportunities than full-timers.

In addition, nearly one in 13 women work term-time only for around 39 weeks of the year, rather than 52 weeks. By comparison, less than one in 50 men choose this option. As a result, women are over four times more likely than men to be working term-time only.

Flexible working can also encompass job sharing. Although it is the least common form of flexible working arrangement, women are three times more likely than men to be in a job share role.

Conversely, men are far more likely than women to work from home. In 2019, one in 13 men were working from home, compared to one in 17 women. By 2021, nearly one in four men worked mainly from home, compared to just over one in five women. Even in jobs dominated by women, men are more likely than women to be homeworking.

The TUC, in commentary on its research, argues that greater access to all types of flexible working arrangements would provide more opportunity for women to take up the types of flexibility – should they want to – that do not impact on hours worked and pay. It also calls for part-time jobs to be designed to ensure that they offer equivalent pay and the same career and progression opportunities.

Whilst welcoming the government’s announcement that it will make flexible working a legal right from the first day in a job, the TUC notes that the government is only going to allow two requests in any 12-month period, albeit with a shortened two-month response timeframe. Instead, it is calling for workers to have both the right to appeal any rejections of a request, and to be able to make multiple requests per year for flexible working arrangements.

To read the TUC research in full, click here.

To read the government announcement, click here.

To read the government consultation response, click here.