In analysis of almost 3,000 calls to its legal advice helpline in 2014, Working Families said workers in low paid sectors such as retail, social care, catering and hospitality are employed on contracts that offer them little in the way of pay, guaranteed hours or job security. The fact that they have the right to request flexible working is little value when there is such an imbalance of power, the charity said.
“Working parents and carers such as these are missing out on the opportunities for more beneficial flexible working which are increasingly available to many – mostly better paid – workers as their employers recognise the benefits from mutually beneficial flexible working.”
It blamed the increase in the use of ‘casualised’ forms of employment by bosses in these sectors, saying what Citizens Advice has called the “hyper-flexibility” of these jobs is all one way, benefiting only the employer.
“By their nature, such insecure jobs, with varying and unpredictable weekly hours… make it very difficult if not impossible for workers to successfully request a change in their hours or working pattern to accommodate a change in their family circumstances, or to resist a problematic change in their hours or working pattern imposed – without consultation – by their employer,” said the report, adding: “A refusal to work shorter, longer or simply different hours can easily lead to there being no work at all.”
Working Families chief executive Sarah Jackson said: “If there is one stand-out feature of our work this year, it is that flexible working is simply a pipe dream for all too many of the parents and carers who contact the helpline team despite the extension to all employees of the existing right to request flexible working in June 2014.”
“For these workers on zero-hour contracts and in “casualised” roles they have significant variations in income, they find it hard to arrange (and retain) childcare and they find their in-work benefits disrupted. And, for too many of our callers, a refusal to work shorter, longer or simply different hours can easily lead to there being no work at all.”
The charity said upfront tribunal fees introduced in July 2013 are unaffordable to many, making it harder than ever to challenge any unlawful action on the part of the employer.
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