Flexible working rights do not go far enough for staff

In response to your debate on the backlash against flexible working (Personnel Today, 3 May), I do not think flexible working has gone too far at all. On the contrary, I don’t think it has gone far enough.

We did some research for the CBI diversity conference – more than 50 in-depth interviews – where one of the questions centred around flexible working, and whether companies felt people would get promoted if they were working flexibly. The resounding answer was no.

More than 80% of organisations said this would negatively affect their promotion prospects. Of the remaining 20%, most were people who either couldn’t or wouldn’t say. The fact is part-time working is still regarded as part-time commitment.

So many men we spoke to said they would love to take more time off work, but couldn’t for fear of jeopardising their career success. Women are more likely to work flexibly, but acknowledge that this may hinder their career prospects.

We did not do any further analysis about what factors would make women more likely to take up flexible working, but in my opinion, it is more likely to be those with a good family support system. Those without access to one probably won’t have the luxury of opting for a flexible working arrangement.

I believe true equality for both sexes will only be achieved when the same rights are provided to both men and women (for example, similar lengths of maternity leave being offered to men as paternity leave). When men not only have the right, but actually start to take up these working arrangements, this will no longer be seen as a female issue.

As for the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and its objections to flexible working, can it provide the names of any FTSE 100 board-level executives who work flexibly? And any evidence that this has had a negative impact on the productivity of organisations?

Hundreds of companies (including BT, Nationwide and Asda) have produced strong evidence to demonstrate that flexible working benefits the bottom line and improves business productivity. By trying to put a halt to what has been done so far, is it not jeopardising this productivity?
It sounds as though its objections are based on negative stereotypes of people who work flexibly.

Lucy Standing
Consultant
Capital Consulting: Talent Within

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