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  • Union body calls for day one right to flexible work – and for every job advert to show what kind of flexible working is available in that role

Half (53%) of new dads and partners entitled to paternity leave who request flexible working don’t get the flexibility they ask for, according to a new TUC poll published today (Wednesday).

The poll found that those on lower incomes were even less likely to have their flexible working requests accepted:

  • Nearly two in three (64%) dads (and partners entitled to paternity leave) with household incomes under £40,000, who requested flexible working from their employer had their requests rejected in part or in full – compared to half (49%) of those earning over £40,000.
  • Just one in three (36%) dads and partners with household incomes under £40,000 got the flexibility they asked for at work in full, compared to half (51%) of those with household incomes over £40,000.
  • And dads and partners with household incomes under £40,000 were less likely to request flexible working in the first place, with half (48%) making a request compared to six in 10 (61%) new dads and partners with household incomes over £40,000.

The poll also uncovered:

  • There was confusion about the right to request flexible working. One in four (24%) dads and partners that didn’t ask for flexible working said it was because they didn’t know they could ask for flexibility at work.
  • Concerns about employers’ reactions: One in five (18%) didn’t ask for flexibility because they didn’t think it would be approved.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Everyone should have access to flexible working – but far too many new parents don’t get the flexibility they ask for at work, particularly those in lower paid roles.

“As a result, dads and partners miss out on precious time with their children. And mums continue to shoulder most of the caring responsibilities which hits their earnings and careers. That’s not right.

“Flexibility must become the norm for all workers. Without it, inequality for women will worsen, and mums will continue to lose out on pay and opportunities at work.

“Ministers need to change the law so that every job advert makes clear what kind of flexible working is available in that role, so people know before they start a job whether it works for them and their families.

“And workers should have the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job.”

Joint CEO and Head of Research at the Fatherhood Institute Adrienne Burgess added: “This new data fits with evidence from other surveys and research, suggesting that fathers face a particular ‘flex stigma’.

“They’re usually the higher earner in the household, which makes asking for flexibility feel more risky. And when they do ask, they’re very likely to have their request rejected.

“We know that some dads vote with their feet by changing jobs in search of greater flexibility – creating additional, hidden costs and reduced productivity for employers.

“How much better it would be if the right to work flexibly – rather than just the right to request flexible working – became a day one rights.”

The Employment Relations Bill (Flexible Working)

The Employment Relations Bill (Flexible Working), along with the government’s commitment to bring in a day one right to request flexible working for employees is a good step forward, but the TUC says its poll shows too many requests are still rejected by employers.

The union body believes this is due to continuing stigma about flexible working and the breadth of the reasons employers can use to reject requests with ease.

And even with the changes proposed today the TUC remains concerned that workers still won’t know what flexibility is possible until they start in a job.

Government action needed

The union body is calling for the government to:

  • Unlock the flexibility in all jobs. Every job can be worked flexibly. There are a range of hours-based and location-based flexibilities to choose from – and there is a flexible option that will work for every type of job. Employers should think upfront about the flexible working options that are available in a role, publish these in all job adverts and give successful applicants a day one right to take up any of those options. 
  • Make flexible working a genuine legal right from the first day in a job. People should have the right to work flexibly from day one, unless the employer can properly justify why this is not possible. Workers should have the right to appeal any rejections. And there shouldn’t be a limit on how many times workers  can ask for flexible working arrangements in a year.

020 7467 1248 

Editors note


Notes to editors:
- About the polling: The polling was carried out for the TUC by Opinium. They surveyed 2,006 parents of children under six-years-old asking about flexible working requests of the parent entitled to paternity leave, between 3-6 February 2023. To be entitled to paternity leave individuals must be taking time off to look after the child and be one of the following: the father, the husband or partner of the mother or adoptive parent – this includes same-sex partners, adoptive parents or the intended parent (if you’re having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement) and they must be an employee, give the correct notice and have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the ‘qualifying week’. For more information, please contact
- Caring responsibilities: TUC analysis published in March found women are around seven times more likely than men to be out of the labour market due to caring commitments:
- Employment Relations Bill (Flexible Working): The Bill removes the requirement on the employee to explain what effect, if any, the flexible working request would have on the organisation and how it could be dealt with. It will allow employees to make two statutory requests within a 12-month period (an increase from one currently). It reduces the maximum time that employers have to respond to a flexible working request from three months to two months, and it introduces a requirement on employer to consult with the employee before rejecting a flexible working request. The government have also committed to introduce a day one right to request flexible working for employees via secondary legislation.
- Women and flexible work: TUC analysis published in December 2022 showed that women are much more likely than men to find themselves in flexible work arrangements that lose them hours and pay:
- Difficulty getting access to flexible working: 13,000 mums responded to a TUC and Mother Pukka survey which revealed that that half of working mums don’t get the flexibility they request at work.
- Easy for employers: TUC polling of HR managers shows an advertising duty would be easy to implement. Six in 10 HR managers said either that it would be easy to include specific information about the types of hours-based flexibility or pattern of home or remote working available in each job advert, or that they  already do this.…
- #FlexforAll: The TUC is a member of the Flex for All alliance – along with Pregnant then Screwed, Fawcett Society, Mother Pukka, the Young Women’s Trust, Gingerbread, Working Families and the Fatherhood Institute. The Flex for All campaign has published a statement today (Monday) which the TUC has signed, calling for employers to be required to include flexible working options in job adverts.
- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


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