'The ability to work flexibly must be a right rather than a perk'

Kids at the pre school play in the sand pit

Mothers have to sacrifice their careers because they can't get flexible, affordable childcare - Credit: Archant

Today is International Women’s Day, which each year offers us a chance to reflect on the incredible achievements of women in the UK and all over the world who have fought so hard for gender equality.

However, International Women’s Day is also about reflecting on how far we still have to go to achieve real equality for women.  

As the member of parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn, I have been campaigning for better representation for women in parliament, but also for practical changes that would help to improve opportunities for women in everyday life. One of the issues I have been highlighting is how the lack of access to flexible working disproportionately affects women.  

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq

Tulip Siddiq is fighting for flexible working for all - Credit: Office of Tulip Siddiq

Mothers, and single mothers in particular, too often have to sacrifice their careers because they can’t get the flexible working arrangements they need or access affordable childcare. This significantly reduces the number of women in work, with a loss to the economy of billions of pounds each year.  

Frustratingly, the pandemic has not brought about the revolution in flexible working that many had assumed it would. All forms of flexible working except enforced home working have declined over the past two years. A third of all requests for flexible working are simply rejected by employers, despite four out of five workers wanting to work flexibly.  

That is why I introduced my Flexible Working Bill, which would guarantee the right to flexible working and ensure that options for this are included in job adverts, and why I am fighting so hard to see these changes become law. The ability to work flexibly must be a right for all rather than a perk for a few, and I raised in parliament last month the need to ensure that any changes to legislation actually guarantee flexible working as a right. 

If our reflections on International Women’s Day tell us anything, it is that each step we take gets us closer to where we want to be, and that we must keep fighting for gender equality. 

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Tulip Siddiq is MP for Hampstead and Kilburn