Include small businesses in flexible working proposals, says CIPD

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Excluding small businesses from the proposed extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees could create a two-tier labour market, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has warned.

The comments formed part of the CIPD’s response to the government consultation on flexible working, which closed today. It also argued that excluding businesses of any size from employment regulation could become a “perverse disincentive” for small companies to expand.

The Government’s Modern Workplaces consultation looked at areas such as flexible parental leave, flexible working, equal pay and the Working Time Regulations.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said that extending the right to request flexible working to all employees was “long overdue” but cautioned against exempting some companies from the Regulations.

“We are concerned that the Government has even considered exempting micro-businesses from the proposals – particularly when the Regulations will come into effect after the current three-year moratorium,” Emmott added.

“Excluding business of any size from the application of employment regulation would tend towards the creation of a two-tier labour market and could be a perverse disincentive for employers.”

The TUC has also warned that the proposal to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, which would remove the statutory process for considering requests and replace it with a requirement to consider all those that were “reasonable”, would make it easier for employers to say no to staff who wanted to work flexibly.

A number of business groups have criticised the proposals, saying that, although flexible working is beneficial, bringing in legislation will lead to a “significant administrative and financial burden” on employers.

Manufacturer’s organisation the EEF, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors have also written to the Government urging them to rethink the consultation’s proposals.

The EEF argued in its response that the proposals, in particular the introduction of gender pay audits, would cause an “unnecessary extra burden on business”.

Tim Thomas, EEF head of employment affairs, said: “Employers will draw a line in the sand on plans for gender pay audits. Pay audits will do little to increase pay transparency in the private sector and are likely to have the opposite effect.

“At a time when the Government is committed to reducing the burden of regulation, business is asking why this measure is needed and why the Government is not taking proper account of the cost that it will impose on employees.”

Model policies and documents on flexible working are available on XpertHR.

XpertHR also has information on equal pay.

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