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Feb 22, 2019

In Episode 3 of Series 1, Matt Creagh, Employment Rights Policy Officer at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) talks to Afshin about policies to support the integration of work and family life, changing working patterns and how employers can help parents who work non standard shifts.  

Key points from the discussion


  • Matt outlines TUC's priorities for working people: access to and ability to enforce employment rights for all and access to policies that help them achieve work-life balance for their wellbeing
  • How will today's workers be affected by Brexit? Matt outlines TUC concerns about possible loss of worker rights linked to being a member of the EU
  • Matt mentions the EU Worklife Balance Directive currently in the pipeline and says UK working parents in particular will miss out on some of the protections and benefits that it will afford other EU workers when Brexit happens


  • The discussion moves to some of Afshin's recent research looking at whether there are any educational patterns among parents who work non standard shifts.
  • The research shows 2 distinct groups (both higher and lower educated mothers) who are more likely to work non standard shifts
  • Matt speculates that this could be linked to the fact that mothers tend to take on the bulk of the caring responsibilities within families

Matt says the TUC is particularly concerned with the low take up of shared parental leave and policies to encourage fathers to take on more of the caring responsibilities

  • He mentions in Scandinavian countries each parent has a separate entitlement to paid parental leave so more fathers are better placed to take time off
  • Afshin mentions other related research on fathers and shift work and the links with mental health - she finds parents who work non standard shifts tend to have lower levels of wellbeing
  • Matt says TUC finds the same in its recent research talking with low paid workers. Parents said notice of shifts and guaranteed hours would help them 


  • Discussion on flexible working - Afshin mentions our earlier podcast episode with Val Wilcox from the National Childbirth Trust where flexible working could be a positive thing for employers and employees especially mums trying to manage a return to work and continue breastfeeding
  • Matt says flexible working has different meanings and isn't always a positive thing if it's used by employers to hire and fire at will with no obligations and no security for workers - he says some employers are doing positive things on this front but not all - unions have played a key role in negotiating better policies in this area but says employers are not always good at talking with their workers about their home needs and how policies could help
  • Matt recommends all people join a union but accepts not everyone is in a position to do so. Nevertheless, he urges all workers to find as much information as they can about their rights.


  • Final part of discussion covers TUC's latest research - Matt mentions TUC's participation in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices and says the Government's response has not gone far enough and why the TUC does not think it goes far enough in tackling the problems of insecure work outlined in the review

Other resources

  1. TUC blog
  2. TUC Rights at work