Short sighted approach to flexible work set up to fail

Senator Marie Sherlock
25 January 2022

Labour employment spokesperson Senator Marie Sherlock has warned that the Government is adopting a timid and short-sighted strategy on the future of work that is set up to fail workers.

Senator Sherlock said:

“The right to flexible work must not be confused with a blanket right to remote work on a full-time basis. Unfortunately, the Government’s blind spot is that employers could be discommoded, when we know from years of research that a better work life balance is crucial to worker retention and worker productivity.

“For women workers and all workers with caring responsibilities, the right to flexible work is crucial to ensuring their continued participation in the workforce. The data from the CSO is clear. It showed that amid all the job losses in 2020 and 2021 for both men and women, the numbers of women in full time employment actually increased over that time and is something to be welcomed.

“Compared with the pre pandemic period and Q3 2021 there was a substantial rise of women in full time employment – by 5%. On the other hand the increase in number of males in full time employment was negligible. This also came at a time when we saw substantial falls in female part time employment.

She added:

“The precise factors behind this are unclear for now that but we know from talking to many women, that remote and flexible working actually enabled them to do more work, that for those with young children in particular, the lack of a commute ensured they could work and attend to caring responsibilities. Government Ministers talking about the right of appeal to the WRC need to put themselves in the shoes of workers going up against the might of their employer. It’s simply not realistic without union or legal representation and workers will rightly fear the consequences of taking a case.

“It is unfortunate, and frankly unacceptable, that the Government are seeking to rely on the primacy of the employment contract to avoid introducing a right to flexible work. It is vital that employers take into account and accept the working arrangements that evolved over the past two years and that they do not simply rely on current contacts of employment.

“The legislation is already there to consider the actual worked experience as it was central pillar to the Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2018 which saw the introduction of banded hours.”

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