Stat of the month: unconscious bias in flexible working

By Angela Matthews

A recent Australian report by Symmetra called The Conundrum of Workplace Flexibility shows the unconscious bias that is sometimes present towards employees who take up flexible working patterns.

Unconscious bias against flexible workers can have an indirectly discriminatory impact on many aspects of equality in the workplace, but it should be noted how key flexible working has been shown to be to disabled workers as a common reasonable adjustment. In the Life Opportunities Survey 2009/11, we saw that 60 per cent of disabled people who were not employed because of their disability said that flexible working is one of the adjustments that would help them work, and almost 50 per cent of disabled people in work said that flexible working hours have helped them to stay in their jobs. We also saw in CBI’s 2013 Absence in the Workplace Health Survey that flexible working was the most common adjustment, used by 82 per cent of respondents.

This is another example of how negative presumptions can have a discriminatory impact – especially regarding such a common reasonable adjustment for an employee with a disability or long-term health condition.

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