Push for parent power at work gathers steam

Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers has stressed his
determination to force business to embrace family-friendly working, and told
employers that “no change is not an option”.

Byers was speaking at an Equal Opportunities Commission
conference on the DTI’s Work and Parents Green Paper, which is in the last two
weeks of its consultation period.

The comments come only days after Tony Blair angered
business leaders by pre-empting the consultation and announced that two weeks’
paid paternity leave is to be introduced.

Byers, who hinted at the introduction of a voluntary code to
introduce measures outlined in the Green Paper, said, “Businesses should be
clear: parents in this country overwhelmingly want a more flexible working
environment. I am committed to ensuring they have more opportunity and choice.”

However, HR professionals have expressed concern over the prospect
of compulsory legislation on reduced hours for parents.

Mike Griffin, HR director for King’s College Hospital NHS
Trust, believes the Government should introduce change through persuasion. “We
try to accommodate people – if we don’t that person will choose to work
somewhere else and drop out of the health service altogether,” he said.

Mike Emmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, is opposed to
statutory legislation on part-time working for parents. He said, “There are
obvious benefits to both employer and employee from a sensible work-life
balance, but we don’t think a statutory solution is the best approach.”

An EOC survey shows that 80 per cent of the public support
part-time working for parents.

By Ben Willmott

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