Workers should not have to request flexible working, instead, it should be the default position for employers, according to one MP.

Introducing a bill to parliament, Conservative MP Helen Whately said adopting an automatic flexible approach would help to close the gender pay gap, help parents to share childcare and prevent businesses from losing workers.

Ms Whately said: “The 40-hour, five-day working week made sense in an era of single-earner households and stay-at-home mums, but it no longer reflects the reality of how many modern families want to live their lives.

“At the moment, too many women are reluctantly dropping out of work or going part-time after having children because their employers won’t allow them flexibility.

“This entrenches the assumption that men are the breadwinners and women are the homemakers.

“As a result, men don’t get to spend as much time as they might like with their children, women miss out on career opportunities, and the country loses out on the contribution they could and would like to make - if only they could do slightly different hours or work some days from home.”

Speaking to the BBC, Ella Smillie of the Fawcett Society, a campaign for gender equality, said: “We urge MPs to give Helen Whately’s bill the support it deserves.

“Ensuring that employers offer flexible working would open up new jobs to a whole raft of people who want to work, alongside carrying out caring responsibilities or simply achieving a better work-life balance.

“There are also clear benefits to employers - offering flexible working to employees creates a stronger, loyal and more diverse workforce, which pays dividends.”