More needs to be done to boost flexible working, says survey

Both MPs and the public agree that the Government needs to make it easier for companies to adopt flexible working policies, a survey has found.

More than three-quarters of the public (79%) and around two-thirds (69%) of MPs agree that more needs to be done to help organisations implement flexible working, according to report published by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the Professional Contractors Group (PCG).

The survey of 158 MPs and more than 2,000 members of the public found that 86% and 78% respectively thought that encouraging a flexible labour force was important in stimulating economic growth.

They also agreed that flexible working had been a vital tool for organisations during the economic downturn, with just under three-quarters (71%) of the public and four-fifths of MPs (78%) believing that those companies who adopted flexible working had come out of the recession better than they would have otherwise.

Simon McVicker, head of public affairs at PCG, commented: “It’s abundantly clear from these results that both the public and MPs understand that flexible working is crucial to the ongoing UK economic growth, however we feel policy is dangerously lagging behind.”

The PCG and the REC have called on the Government to implement the following measures to encourage flexible working:

  • a simplified tax system, which rewards flexible work and doesn’t penalise it;
  • a review of the Agency Workers Regulations after they have been in force for a year to ensure they do not negatively affect the market in the long term; and
  • a universal credit and pensions system, in which pensions are more portable and easier to administer for flexible workers.

Tom Hadley, REC director of policy and professional services, added: “We must move away from the outdated notion that traditional full-time work is the only viable or desirable form of employment. The assumption that all of those in part-time or temporary capacity are only doing so because they can’t find full-time work doesn’t really reflect reality.

“Instead, flexible working is embraced by individuals for a variety of reasons. Decision-makers must recognise this and support this important tool to promote much-needed economic growth.”

The Government recently consulted on a number of flexible working proposals in its “Modern workplaces” consultation, including the planned extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees. However, groups did not agree on whether the proposed legislation was too burdensome for employers or if more regulation was needed to guard against unscrupulous employers.

Read more about the implications of the proposals on the right to request flexible working.

Employers can also learn more about the Government’s planned changes to flexible working regulations at XpertHR’s Modern Workplace 2011 conference.

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