The government must give more support to employers in promoting flexible working rather than just overloading them with red tape, a leading business figure said last week.
Patricia Peter, head of corporate governance and employment at the Institute of Directors, said she fully supported flexible working, but employers needed better guidance. “Employers have to be supported, but an overly bureaucratic approach doesn’t enable flexibility,” she said. “There is a place for legislation, but too much bureaucracy isn’t going to help.”
Speaking at the launch of the Equal Opportunities Commission’s Transformation of Work interim report, Peter called on employers to come forward and share best practice.
“The Institute of Directors has historically had a bit of a reputation for being antagonistic towards work-life balance,” she said. “We want people to perceive work as an exciting part of their life, and we want to hear from organisations that have innovative ways of working.”
Trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling said the debate on work-life balance had been polarised. “People assume that work-life balance is against the interest of employers. But there is no titanic struggle between employers and employees. Most people generally want to work and are committed to work. It’s in all our interests to get it right,” he said.
Promoting flexible working and treating staff as equals is better for business, Darling said. “Social justice and a strong, proficient economy go hand in hand, and increased goodwill benefits the bottom line,” he added.
Quotes from the EOC conference
“You’re misled if you think this [flexible working] is just about improving work conditions for women. It’s about improving work conditions for everyone.”
Jenny Watson, chair, Equal Opportunities Commission
“We need to get the simple truth out there – that people who are valued at work will do their jobs better. Social interaction is a very important part of work.”
Meg Munn, parliamentary under-secretary (women and equality), Department for Communities and Local Government