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Securing upward career mobility for professional women with caregiving responsibilities? A critique of the UK's right to request flexible working

Welman, M. E. (2021) Securing upward career mobility for professional women with caregiving responsibilities? A critique of the UK's right to request flexible working. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00106944


This thesis is an investigation into the role the law can play in addressing gender imbalance in the higher echelons of the employment sphere. The purpose of my doctrinal research is to contribute to a debate on the stymied headway in professional female career progression. By utilising Fineman’s vulnerability theory to critique the RTR provision in conjunction with Acker’s inequality regime to dissect the employment landscape women compete on, an original angle is developed which enhances our understanding of gender inequality in the workplace. In 2014, The Children and Families Act 2014 extended the right to request (RTR) to allow all employees to apply for flexible working structures; this extension of the legislation had, as is argued in this thesis, the potential to challenge normative unencumbered working structures, but it has not been successful in achieving this goal. The thesis investigates the reasons for the RTR’s limited transformative impact with reference to specifically professional female caregiver’s career progression. This analysis is conducted by scrutinising the content and operation of the provisions contained within the RTR as well as the workplaces upon which it is imposed. The RTR is critiqued from the perspective of its inability to challenge gender inequality and the unencumbered norm as well as address the needs of caregivers. Against this backdrop, an investigation of the employment landscape female caregivers compete within, provides useful insights into their stymied career progression. Instead of a set of discernible obstacles, there are inherent inequalities imbedded in workplace structures, processes and practices which perpetuate, instead of challenge, the already imbalanced employment gender slate. Bearing in mind the operation of this unequal employment landscape, an ‘ideal’ RTR is proposed - one with the core aim of supporting the career progression of professional female caregivers. In addition, by examining similar flexible working legislative regimes in Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, areas of potential legislative reform within the UK’s RTR are identified and examined. Having highlighted the shortcomings of family-friendly laws, and the RTR specifically, to advance female career progression of professional women with caregiving responsibilities, an investigation into how alternative measures such as positive action could potentially fill the gaps in addressing the various axes of workplace inequalities, is conducted.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:James, G. and Kokot, P.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Law
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:106944


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