Removing flexible working policies in UK businesses has the potential to negatively impact all employees, but women in the workforce are likely to be among the worst hit.
Following the Chancellor’s suggestion that office working should be the “default” unless there’s a “good reason” to not be in the office, employers and employees have spoken out in favour of maintaining flexible working policies.
One such employer, Professor Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, has labelled the plan “damaging” to women, particularly working mothers and those with caring responsibilities.
“Over half of the workforce in this country is female, yet workplace policies continue to overlook women’s needs, creating an environment that benefits their male counterparts,” said O’Carroll.
“Women are seven times more likely to be out of work due to family commitments or caring responsibilities, and the phasing out of flexible working benefits will only worsen the challenges they face.
“But this is just one aspect of a wider system of hostility, with thousands of women facing pregnancy and maternity discrimination, and many receiving limited employer support.”
Analysis from the Trades Union Congress suggests that women are more likely to be in flexible working arrangements that result in a loss of hours and pay, with the TUC noting that the weight of caring responsibilities is “forcing” women into inadequate flexible arrangements.
Alarmingly, a 2022 survey, conducted by employment support service Working Mums, revealed that one in four women had had their flexible working benefits removed since the pandemic.
“Rather than removing flexible working benefits altogether, the Chancellor, in collaboration with businesses, ought to be strengthening the provision on offer to ensure that all employees can enjoy a working set-up that works for them,” added O’Carroll.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that presenteeism and productivity are not intrinsically aligned, and without making accommodations for workers, we risk losing some very capable and talented women from our workplaces, at a time of great economic precarity.”
The Chancellor’s suggestion follows a string of businesses backtracking on their flexible working policies, with Disney, Lloyd’s Bank, and KPMG among some of the most high-profile companies to do so.