Business secretary Peter Mandelson has distanced himself from claims he is to delay the introduction of regulations on flexible working and maternity leave.
On Monday, the Independent reported that Mandelson would postpone the extension of the right to request flexible working to parents of children up to the age of 16 because of the economic crisis. An extension of paid maternity leave could also be delayed, it said.
However, speaking before the Business and Enterprise Committee in Parliament yesterday, Mandelson insisted he had not spoken to the paper and was merely listening to union and employer views on the issue.
“If [employers’ groups] the British Chambers of Commerce or the EEF say to me these proposals for regulation are going to be onerous in the current economic climate, and can we postpone them for a year or more, then I will consider that. But that’s not the same as agreeing with the proposition they’re making,” Mandelson said.
“It is not the case that I have reached a conclusion, or that the government, as a whole, has yet considered it. I welcome the views of the TUC and other trade unions just as I welcome those of employers.”
Mandelson did confirm that he was considering reviewing the introduction of the laws in the light of the current economic climate. “But it is not a forgone conclusion that we will reach one view or another ahead of that assessment,” he said.
Brian Bender, permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, added that there were longer term benefits to flexible working – including improved productivity, reduced staff turnover and absenteeism – that were not immediately obvious to some employers.
“Other employers recognise that [flexible working] brings business benefits. Research shows that 92% of businesses think that people work best with a better balance between work and the rest of their lives,” he said.