Flexible working for all, says Brendan Barber

Speaking at a work/life balance conference in London, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has dismissed the claims of some employer organisations that there is no need to extend rights on flexible working and will call for all the UK's workers to have the right to request a better balance between work and the rest of their lives.

Addressing the event organised by the Public Service Partnership, Brendan Barber said:

''The way we balance work with all the other competing demands in our busy lives is something that cuts across many of our contemporary debates, from how we raise productivity to how we promote healthier lifestyles'.

'Just last week, the issue of work-life balance dominated the headlines after the Government proposed to extend the right to request flexible working to all parents with school-age children. The TUC welcomed the move as long overdue but ministers should have gone further. All workers - whether they have children or not - should have the right not just to request flexible working, but to access it too.
'But we were disappointed by the predictable carping from some parts of the business lobby, notably the British Chambers of Commerce.

'Worst of all are the commentators who joined them by saying that such moves are bad for women, because employers will stop giving women good jobs.
'This may be an accurate assessment of their own employers - usually right-wing newspapers - but it is a pretty dismal view. It predicts that employers will break the law by discriminating against women. It expects employers to cut themselves off from the talents of half the workforce. And all because a woman may simply ask to change her hours - a request which the law makes it pretty easy to refuse.

'Fortunately most employers are not that blinkered and are well aware of the benefits of allowing staff to alter their hours as their commitments change. Parents of younger children, who are able to work flexibly around school start and finish times, will put more in to their work if they're not constantly stressing about who is going to pick up their children. Similarly, older people not quite ready to completely give up on the world of work, will relish the chance to reduce their hours so they can gradually acclimatise to retirement, and will be more productive as a result.
'The CIPD, the organisation representing HR professionals, agrees with us that the right to ask for a greater work/life balance should be something that is there for everyone at work, whatever their job, whatever their status, whatever their outside responsibilities.

'And the CBI, the main organisation representing employers, has given a cautious welcome to plans to extend the right to request flexible working because good employers recognise that more flexibility can improve staff motivation and retention.
'But while there are employers who see flexibility as the 21st century way of working, there are others who will come up with any excuse to turn down a request to work flexibly, particularly if it comes from a male employee. Extending the chance of a greater work/life balance to all employees will help boost productivity levels and help instil a greater sense of well-being in the UK workforce. The Government should not be put off course by the remarks of a few mean-minded, inflexible employers.'

Posted by, Asif Yusuf



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