Flexible working must have a flexible review

Last week’s proposals from the DTI to give parents a legal right to request
flexible working if they have children under six will be greeted with relief by
employers. Plans to give all parents the automatic right to work either part
time or flexible hours have been thrown out, as well as the proposed unworkable
harm test for employers.

The latest proposals then appear to be a sensible compromise and they have
won the support of the majority of HR directors (News, front page).

However, it is also welcome that the DTI will be keeping these measures
under review. The Government estimates that there will be half a million
requests a year, out of which 1 per cent will result in an Employment Tribunal
hearing. If these targets are not met there will be an urgent need to assess
the effect on companies’ competitiveness.

It is also important that employers’ bodies watch resulting tribunals
carefully. There are grey areas in the taskforce’s recommendations about the
right of staff to challenge the facts in an employer’s business case, and
employees will also be able to cite other areas of legislation. The DTI must
make sure that its plans for arbitration and its new penalties for vexatious
claims prevent the new law from tying up employers in unnecessary red tape.

Dazzling inconsistency between the genders

A survey shows that half of company directors think women who wear make-up
look more professional (News, this page). Surely a professional appearance is
about looking smart and if men can manage this without wearing make-up then why
shouldn’t women be able to? Or is it just that men have such lovely complexions
and dazzling eyes that they look ravishing without the need of cosmetics?

By Noel O’Reilly

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