Employers resist laws on flexible work

Employers
and unions were at loggerheads during a Commons inquiry last week over
proposals to give parents the right to flexible working.

MPs were offered two opposing views on the impact of the plans, with
employers arguing against a "legislative straitjacket" and unions
insisting that workers needed protection from "un-enlightened"
companies.

Union representatives acknow-ledged many firms were offering flexible and
part-time deals but only at the discretion of managers who tended to favour
workers who were difficult to replace.

Kay Carberry, head of the Equal Rights Department at the TUC, said,
"There needs to be a legal right because not all employers are as
enlightened as those that provide different forms of working for their
employees." Lucy Anderson, senior policy officer in the Equal Rights
Department argued that the business benefits of flexible working had been
demonstrated in many surveys.

The
committee also took evidence from Susan Anderson, director of human resources
policy at the CBI, Rob Collinge, chair of the CBI employee resourcing panel and
HR director at GlaxoSmithKline (UK) and Simon Bartley, vice-chairman of the
CBI’s SME Council.

The CBI’s Anderson highlighted existing "good practice" and said
the UK already has the second highest incidence of part-time working in the EU.
She said offering flexibility makes "good business sense" but warned
it is not possible to give "absolute rights" in the sphere of work
organisation.

"The legislative straitjacket is not the right answer. There will
always come a point where the employer has to say that the employer’s needs
have to come first," said Anderson.

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