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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: the flexible future of work, plus more positive news

Posted 24th September 2021 • Written by •

The UK pushed for more flexible working, China pledged to stop funding foreign coal projects, and AI made a medical breakthrough, plus more positive news

UK employees to be given right to request flexible working

People in the UK will be given the right to request flexible working on day one of their new job, under proposals being considered by the government. Bosses would also have to explain why any requests were turned down.

Employees currently have to wait until they’ve been in a role for six months before they can request flexible working. 

A consultation on the proposals launched on Thursday. Proponents argue that the policy will help make flexible working the norm post-pandemic. Critics argue that they don’t go far enough, and that employees should be given the right to flexible working, not just the right to request it.  

The high number of vacancies in the UK jobs market means that many employers are offering flexible working to entice talent, suggesting the trend for home working will accelerate in some sectors regardless of a policy shift. 

China promised to stop funding coal power projects abroad

China has pledged to stop building coal-fired power plants abroad, a move that could prove significant in driving down carbon emissions. 

The announcement was made by the Chinese president Xi Jinping in a pre-recorded address to the UN general assembly on Tuesday. 

South Korea and Japan have already made similar announcements this year. According to some estimates, the three nations are responsible for bankrolling 95 per cent of overseas coal-fired power plants.

Key questions remain, however, including when the financing will end, whether it will apply to power plants already approved, and what China is going to do about its own coal dependency.

AI ushered in a new era for cancer treatment

Scientists have used artificial intelligence (AI) to create a new drug regime for children who have a deadly form of brain cancer. 

AI helped identify a drug combination that has showed promise in treating intrinsic pontine glioma, a rare and aggressive type of brain tumour in children.

Professor Chris Jones, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: “We still need a full-scale clinical trial to assess whether the treatment can benefit children, but we’ve moved to this stage much more quickly than would ever have been possible without the help of AI.”

Experts said that the breakthrough could usher in an “exciting” new era where AI can help develop treatments for all types of cancer.

Mediterranean nations agreed to boost climate resilience

After a summer of wildfires in Europe, nine Mediterranean nations have vowed to step up efforts to deal with extreme weather caused by the climate crisis. 

France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia and Greece signed a deal that will see them intensify their response to wildfires. The countries will also share expertise and technology in a bid to build more resilient ecosystems.

“The climate crisis is no longer a distant threat; it has landed firmly on our shores,” said the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

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