Employers warned of staff backlash over requests to work flexibly

Employers have been warned that they will create factions in their workforces if they don’t allow all staff to work flexibly.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said staff would soon resent the privileges given to parents and carers.

Its comments came after the CBI insisted the government would be “foolish” to extend flexible working rights to all employees.

Children’s minister Beverley Hughes called for such an extension last week.

CIPD employee relations adviser Mike Emmott said: “We back an extension of the right to request. There may indeed be a greater risk in not extending it.

“By limiting this right to parents and carers, the government risks creating an unnecessarily divided workforce, with other employees resenting the rights granted to their colleagues.”

Under current legislation, only parents with children who are under the age of six or are disabled have the right to request non-standard working hours and locations.

From April, this right will be extended to carers, but Hughes said last week that it should apply to all 29 million UK workers.

This argument has been backed by many organisations, including trade unions and the Equal Opportunities Commission.

But CBI director of HR policy, Susan Anderson, insisted the current right to request flexible working must be reviewed before it is extended to all employees.

“Only by having a gradual and phased extension can we avoid firms being deluged under a sudden increase in requests,” she said. “We must also bear in mind the fact that companies still need to get the job done.”

Last month, Kay Carberry, assistant director-general of the TUC, said unions were going to step up their campaign for further flexible working rights.

Flexible working in numbers

  • 82% of people think it is difficult for parents to balance work and home life, while 72% believe it will be harder in 10 years’ time.
  • 6 in 10 believe the world of work should change to suit the needs of families.
  • 56% of employees say they would like to have a more flexible working pattern.
  • Only 14% of employees believe that their organisation measures the business benefits of flexible working, although this is up from 7% last year.

Sources: Equal Opportunities Commission survey of 2,004 adults in January 2007, and Roffey Park’s The Management Agenda 2007, which surveyed 490 managers.


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