The London Mayor has entered the debate about the value of flexible working, supporting the case for more family-friendly employment practices.
On Monday, the CBI raised concerns about the possible impact of extending the right to request family-friendly hours to workers with other caring responsibilities. It said that, although such a move would placate the unions, it would create unnecessary red tape for employers.
The view was criticised by the TUC and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which said flexible working improves employee motivation and retention levels.
Ken Livingstone said that the critical issue was the loss to the economy as a result of workers, particularly women, being forced out of work or into jobs that do not use their skills just to get the flexibility they needed.
“Research for the Greater London Authority has shown that if the proportion of women in part-time work in London was the same as the national average London’s economic output would be £1.4bn greater every year. That is a loss to the economy that London businesses cannot afford to ignore,” he said.
“Family-friendly employment provides the flexible and part-time work to allow women to stay in work and is the way of the future. This is not about placating unions or anyone else, it’s about what is right for employees is also right for business.”
Consultancy Croner said flexible working should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“In our view the CBI and CIPD are sending out rather confusing messages that the pros and cons of flexible working are black-and-white, when in fact they should be considered in relation to the strategic goals of the individual business,” said Richard Smith, HR consultant at Croner.
“A few isolated cases of flexible working could be disruptive, which is likely to be the case in the CBI’s findings, but a root and branch examination of what working hours are required and how they can most effectively be supplied could result in commercial benefits.”