Queen's Speech: flexible working and equal pay

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

"My government will remove barriers to flexible working and promote equal pay."

My government will remove barriers to flexible working and promote equal pay.

The Coalition document states:

We will extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, consulting with business on how best to do so.


We will promote equal pay and take a range of measures to end discrimination in the workplace.

The right to request flexible working is currently available to employed parents of children aged 16 and under, parents of disabled children up to 18 and carers of certain adults.

Extending the right to request flexible working to all will ensure that individuals within the wider caring structure, e.g. grandparents and neighbours will be able to take a more active role in caring and manage their work and family lives effectively.

This extension will also help to remove the stigma attached to flexible working requests at the moment.

Flexible working is good for:

  • business - it enables them to draw on a wider pool of skills and talents in the workforce, improve recruitment and retention rates, and increase staff morale and productivity;
  • society - helping individuals to find working patterns that match their other responsibilities, and balance work and home life;
  • families - enabling families to spend time with their children as well as work and contribute to the family income.

We want to take the time to consult fully with business and families, to identify the best way to make this extension. Rushing legislation on this issue would not allow full consultation.

The gender pay gap has declined since 1975, so that now the full-time mean pay gap is 16.4%. Nevertheless progress toward equal pay for women is slow, and more action is needed than is provided in the Equality Act 2010.

The causes of the gender pay gap are complex and include the concentration of women in particular industries; the negative effect on wages of having previously worked part time or having time out to look after family; formal educational levels and unobservable factors, which could include sex discrimination.

Action to tackle the pay gap could involve a range of non-legislative and legislative measures. These include extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, promoting a system of flexible parental leave and looking to promote gender equality on the boards of listed companies.