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A cultural shift is needed to encourage flexible working, says work and pensions secretary

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The secretary of state for work and pensions is expected to call for a "major cultural shift' in the way firms approach flexible working.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Yvette Cooper said part-time work should not mean an end to career progression in a company.

According to The Independent on Sunday, Cooper (pictured) will promise that from later this year, every time a new full-time vacancy is advertised in a job centre, the employer will be asked if the position can be instead offered part-time, as a job-share or another variant of flexible working.

She said: "This will give people the opportunity to think again about what could be offered. It is still the employer's decision what kind of job they offer, but it is a process of changing the culture. We want to encourage a cultural shift.

"This is in the interests of business as well as in the interests of families, because there are a lot of parents who want to work part-time when their children are younger. Employers should want to use their skills and talent and experience, which otherwise are being wasted in the economy.

"It is important to make sure the policies we are putting forward fit with women's lives. We have always challenged inequality and thought about what women want, and what opportunities there are for women. Working mums still feel they are stretched in eight different directions at once."

But commenting on the interview Working Families has called on all parties to make a bold manifesto commitment to recruiting all public-sector jobs on a part-time or flexible basis wherever possible.
 
Working Families has called for the public sector to lead the way towards advertising all jobs flexibly.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, added: "We need to move away from the full-time default setting and ensure many more jobs are offered on a flexible or part time basis. The Government and public sector can take the lead in shifting discussions about flexible working to the recruitment stage, so that a working pattern that suits both employer and employee is decided at the outset, saving time and money later.
 
"Job centres could also help private-sector employers rethink what skills they require and whether a job really needs to be offered only on a 9-5, 35-hour week basis.  At a time of recession, every employer needs to be fishing from the widest possible talent pool.  Our full-time culture means too many talents are wasted - particularly women and carers' - and the UK loses out.
 
 "Flexible working is not a ‘perk' for the good times. The UK cannot afford to overlook the business benefits that flexible working can bring. There is a positive link between flexible working and performance. Costs of absenteeism, sickness and recruitment are reduced. There could not be a more important time to get the right talent in the right place: flexible working can achieve this goal."