Local government employers are calling for staff to move away from the nine-to-five working culture so services can run on a timetable for the public, rather than for staff.
Council personnel chiefs told the Local Government Pay Commission that significant changes to pay, conditions and working patterns were needed to modernise public services.
Alan Warner, vice-president of the Society of Chief Personnel Officers (Socpo), said changes to remuneration and overtime were required to ensure that local government services reflect the changing needs of the public.
"Something has to change in local government. What we're saying is there needs to be greater flexibility. Certain conditions of service have been around since the 1940s," he said.
"The public's requirements for services have changed and we live in a 24/7 society. We need modernisation so we can have a service that reflects the year 2003 and beyond," he said.
Warner said employers were incurring huge costs through offering extended services, because of overtime and additional payments to staff.
Socpo called on the commission to make national pay deals less prescriptive, allowing greater flexibility locally to reflect different geographical markets, needs and circumstances.
"One size does not fit all because the labour market in Surrey is totally different to that in Northumberland," he added.
He said poor pay is not the only issue hampering recruitment and retention and in some cases, such as social work, problems stem from a poor image and a lack of training.
- National collective bargaining should stay
- More pay flexibility local level
- Better training
- Different working patterns