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Labour unveils plans to support flexible working

Unions and employment rights groups welcomes Labour’s new deal for workers but warn ‘devil will be in the detail’ over collective bargaining rights

LABOUR is set to unveil plans to make flexible working “a force for good” open to all as part of an overhaul of employment rights. 

Deputy leader Angela Rayner is expected to say today that flexibility for employees does not just concern home working but is about making sure that job commitments “fit around people’s lives, instead of dictating their lives.”

The Ashton-under-Lyne MP will commit a future Labour government to ending “one-sided flexibility” by offering flexitime, staggered hours and wriggle room around childcare and caring responsibilities to all from day one in a job. 

A “right to switch off” and disconnect from work outside working hours is also needed, Ms Rayner will stress, plus greater access to workplaces, including those of home workers, for trade unions to protect staff. 

The proposals form part of Labour’s new employment rights charter, launched on Monday, which promises a “new deal for working people” by offering sick pay and a £10 minimum hourly wage to all, as well as a jobs promise for young people alongside more apprenticeships.

Ahead of today’s announcement, Ms Rayner said: “Flexible working is about a fundamental change to working practices to improve the lives of all.

“[It] will change our economy and the world of work for the better, stop women dropping out of the workforce altogether, end the sexist assumption of Dad being at work in the office and Mum looking after the kids at home, and improve the lives of millions of workers.”

Unions have broadly welcomed the charter, with retail union Usdaw saying that it shows Labour offering a real alternative to the Tories. 

Reacting to the proposals on Monday evening, Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said the Covid-19 crisis is “bringing about fundamental changes to the way we live,” adding: “We cannot go back to the bad old ways of undervaluing workers.”

Think tank the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) backed the charter’s commitment to strengthening collective bargaining powers, but IER president Professor Keith Ewing warned that “the devil will be in the detail.”

He told the Morning Star: “Much modern research has shown that [collective bargaining] is the best way to raise pay and conditions at work, as well as resist unscrupulous employers’ attempts to undermine unions.

“This push should be bolstered through public procurement by including as conditions of public contracts that employers recognise trade unions.”

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