Pressure set to mount for laws on flexible working

Employment law has yet to catch up with the trend for flexible working,
according to recent speakers at the employers’ Law briefing on work-life
balance. Said Nicholas Robertson of legal firm Rowe & Maw which sponsored
the event, "Flexible working tends to develop in a piecemeal way within
most organisations. Just because one person organises their work-life balance
in one particular way doesn’t mean it won’t be different from the next person’s

Attaining a work-life balance can be particularly difficult for those who
are ostensibly working part-time. According to Michel Syrett, a work-life
balance academic and consultant, "Work-life balance can be more of a
problem for part-timers because of the Internet and e-mail. Increasing numbers
of part timers are having to work beyond their contracted hours to remain

Presenteeism in the home is a particular problem, and, said Syrett,
"employment law and public policy has simply not caught up with

Robertson argued that the common law gives little support for flexible
working, so the approach to the number of working hours is usually determined
by the parties themselves and judged on the contract of employment.

Although there are a number of legal constraints on the total hours worked
under a contract, including: Working Time regulations, health and safety
obligations and part-time workers regulations, the right to emergency leave is
still seen as a female issue.

Said Robertson, "People tend to challenge their employers via sex
discrimination. The focus on work-life balance as a female issue of women with
children tends to come from the law."

He predicted that the current Green Paper on Work and Parents could shift
the onus onto employers to prove that flexible working isn’t economically
viable. "In future, employees may have the right to demand part-time
working, unless an employer can demonstrate it would damage their

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