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UCU welcomes minister's 'flexible working' call as it launches survey of elder care needs

14 February 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU has welcomed the call this week by children's minister Beverley Hughes MP for all employees to be able to request flexible working - but says current legal rights are far too timid.

Coincidentally, UCU this week launches the first ever survey in further and higher education of staff views and needs regarding elder care.

The survey is timed so that results will be ready by 6 April 2007 - just as a new legal right is introduced which enables employees to ask for time off and flexible working for elder care. The Work and Families Act 2006 brings the rights of carers responsible for elders into line with parents of children under six and disabled children under 18.

UCU head of equality and employment rights, Roger Kline, said: 'This new legal right is long overdue and recognises that many employees have responsibilities for elderly parents, relatives and partners and that employers should make arrangements to help staff to carry out these responsibilities.

'While the new right is much weaker than UCU had wanted, it could help create a real change in how college and university staff with such responsibilities are seen by their institutions. Many staff simply want to have more flexible working, or have the right to take emergency leave. There is already some good practice around but - ahead of the new legal right - too many employers currently take a rigid and heavy handed approach to any such request.

'Unfortunately, as with many of the government's equality measures, it has no teeth and many employers will be ignoring this new legal right until challenged. That is why UCU will soon be issuing detailed advice to its local negotiators on how to develop good agreements.'