Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has outlined new government plans to extend the right of flexible working to all employees. The plans were revealed on 13th November during a speech at a ‘workhub’ building designed for parents to work freelance while their children are taken care of in a nursery.
Currently the law only allows parents with children the right to ask for reduced or part time working hours. The planned changes will allow all employees to ask for flexible working arrangements, regardless of whether or not they are a parent or carer. Furthermore, Clegg plans to make improved changes to maternity and paternity leave. These new proposals will allow mothers and fathers the opportunity to share parental leave just a fortnight after a birth.
The DPM hopes that this will help remove the stigma associated with flexible working patterns. Clegg stated: “Giving everyone this new right will help drive a culture shift in the workplace. And it will be possible for other relatives, grandparents and even close family friends to change the way they work in order to help with child care”.
While parents to be will no doubt welcome these plans, the reaction from the business world and its professional bodies has been mixed. Peter Cheese, the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has warmly welcomed these plans and would like the Government to go even further in the future. He said: “Firms are increasingly finding that they can benefit from a higher level of loyalty, commitment and engagement from workers from a broad base of employees, not just working mothers, if they adopt a universal approach to considering flexible work requests”.
He believes that these changes are representative of the changing world we live in. So many of us work in IT jobs or have or have the ability to work remotely thanks to advancements in personal computers and mobile devices with internet access.
However, the CBI is more reserved about the proposals. Katja Hall, Chief Policy Director for the CBI warns that flexible working may not be practical for all businesses. Hall said: “Companies support the right of all staff to request flexible working, but they must be able to decide each case on its own merits, as it may not be practical for all firms”.
For example, those working in web design jobs may find it easy to work flexibly and this will benefit their business by being able to respond to customer needs quickly. For those working in a small shop or SME, it may be much more difficult for business to juggle flexible working requests when they only have a small number of employees and need to retain core business hours with their customers.
This proposal represents the seventh change to parental leave within the decade, so regardless of what business leaders think, the Government is committed to offering more flexibility to all employees in the workplace.