Flexible working arrangements under threat as BP scraps nine-day fortnight

Flexible working could soon become a casualty of the credit crunch, an employment expert has warned.

Julie Quinn, employment partner at law firm Nabarro, has predicted that employers will be unable to keep offering a range of flexible working arrangements at a time when recruitment freezes and mass redundancies are sweeping across firms.

The news comes as oil giant BP has announced it will scrap its nine-day fortnight for thousands of workers as part of an efficiency drive. The flexible working scheme had allowed several BP offices to take every other Friday off work if they worked to a set number of hours every fortnight. But The Times reported yesterday the decision was taken to remove the luxury after a review of business practices by an unnamed firm of consultants.

Quinn said: “Many organisations have headcount statistics which do not support part-time working or job sharing. Someone working three days out of five is not three fifths of a full headcount. The benefits costs are often the same, for example healthcare cover, therefore more part-timers or atypical arrangements directly feed into greater headcount at a time when many employers are looking to reduce headcount and save costs.”

She added: “Now that many employers are having a hire freeze, mass redundancies are going through second and third rounds, will flexible working remain so dominant?

While family-friendly policies were still important, Quinn doubted they will have such high prominence when employers are looking to cut costs.

“Obviously it is still high on the government’s agenda but I suspect the reality is that we will see a sharper focus on the hard-core benefits – salary and job security – and not the luxury items like atypical working,” she said.

Earlier this year BP announced it would axe 5,000 jobs from the company to attempt to reverse a 20% dive in profits.

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