CBI highlights downside of flexible working

Most requests for flexible working are accepted by employers, but the demand is causing ever-greater problems for business, according to research by the CBI.

Since the implementation of the Employment Act in 2003, employers have accepted requests to work more flexibly in 90 per cent of cases.

However, the CBI/Pertemps Employment Trends Survey 2005 also shows that accommodating requests by staff for flexible working is causing increasing problems for business.

The proportion of employers reporting that the right to request is having a negative impact on their business has risen from 11% to 26%.

More than three-quarters of all firms reported spending an increasing amount of time dealing with related administration, and just under 60% reported that valuable senior management time was being diverted to compliance.

CBI deputy director general, John Cridland, said the survey provided “a disturbing insight” into the impact of new employment legislation.

“Companies still need to get the job done,” he said. “The temptation to overwhelm them with unjustified employment law, just to placate the trade union movement, must be resisted.”

According to the research, a variety of flexible work patterns are available:

  • 85% of firms surveyed offer part-time working;

  • 39% offer flexitime

  • 35% accept job sharing proposals

However, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber hit back at the CBI claims.

“The right for new parents to request flexible working, to which employers can too easily say no, is one of the most popular rights introduced by this government as a result of union campaigning,” he said. “For the CBI to see this as simply a way of placating trade unions, rather than a key way of retaining and motivating staff, says a great deal about its attitude to the modern world.”

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