Boost women’s employment with flexible working, says MP Tulip Siddiq

·3-min read
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq  (Lucy Young)
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq (Lucy Young)

The Government should commit to “robust” flexible working legislation in order to boost women’s employment, an MP said on Wednesday.

Labour’s Tulip Siddiq argued that flexible working should be a “right for all rather than a perk for the few” during a speech in the Commons.

She said flexible working legislation would help women who bear the brunt of childcare duties in a move that could boost the economy by billions.

Ms Siddiq made the comments as she introduced her ten minute rule bill that would give everyone a right to flexible working from the first day in the job and ensure employers advertise flexibility in job postings.

The shadow children’s minister, who has cross party support for her bill, told the Commons: “Overall, the impact of flexible working is most on women and that’s something we can’t deny.

“In this country the childcare responsibilities…do largely fall on women and the statistics show that if women can flexibly work and go back to their jobs, they’re more likely to not quit their jobs after they’ve had a child and to go back to their careers.

“The statistics show that men can flexibly work as well, women are twice as likely to excel in the career that they’re pursuing, if they have their husbands helping them with childcare responsibility and looking after children.”

Ms Siddiq pointed to research by McKinsey that has shown around £150 billion would be added to the UK economy by 2030 if women were able to achieve their full potential at work, which is reliant on widening flexible working.

She also cited information from the organisation Pregnant then Screwed that reported receiving twice the number of calls to its helpline from mothers who were experiencing flexible working issues between March 2020 and March 2021 as it had recorded in the previous year.

The group’s research also found that 71 per cent of flexible working requests were rejected in the first year of the pandemic, an increase from the 53 per cent rejected in the previous year.

Ms Siddiq welcomed news that the government is consulting on trying to make flexible working a default but warned that consultations can “drag on”

The frontbencher added: “I want to ask the government to take this seriously, to bring in robust legislation, to make a difference to the way that we work in this country.

“I hope the government will listen to me. I hope it will listen to its own colleagues who are supportive of this bill, and to the voices around the house, and bring in legislation that changes the way we work in this country once and for all.”

Ten minute rule bills rarely make it on to the statute book without government backing.

It comes after a recent survey suggested almost half of mid-to-large size UK companies plan to move offices within the next three years as the shift to flexible working outlasts the pandemic.

Downing Street confirmed last week that the government was considering making flexible working a “default option”. A spokesman for the PM defined flexible working as "a range of working arrangements around time, place and hours of work including part-time working, flexi-time or compressed hours" but not necessarily working from home.

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