Mandelson urged to get moving on flexible working

A national organisation specialising in diversity and equality in the workplace is urging Business Secretary Peter Mandelson to reconsider delaying reforms to flexible working.

Mandelson is thought to be considering a review of policies that may affect businesses during the recession. One proposal was to allow parents of children up to the age of 16 to apply for flexible working arrangements from April or May 2009. The current situation is that the right is only for parents of children under six.

Employers have claimed that the change would cost an extra £69 million a year. But Director of the UKRC, Annette Williams, said research shows there would be efficiency and other savings which would offset that cost, and that the value of the change in legislation should be seen in wider terms just money.

She added: “Reconsidering the change to law as part of the response to the credit crunch suggests that flexible working is an expensive burden on a struggling economy. But there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that increases in productivity, more motivated and happy employees, lower staff turnover and a reduction in sickness absence more than make up for the perceived added cost of implementing the change.

The UKRC’s analysis of a number of research papers shows that where flexible working has been introduced, there is an increase in employee motivation and productivity. Williams said: “as people are generally happier, there is also a significant decrease in time lost through sickness or unauthorised absence and staff turnover is reduced. It can cost a company tens of thousands of pounds in recruitment costs each year, and this can seriously impact on profit margins.”

The UKRC is undertaking further research to establish a link between flexible working practices and company profits. Williams added: “I would ask Mr Mandelson to reconsider any delays to this change in legislation. We are not saying that flexible working is for every company, and the change in law itself does not state that everyone who wants to work flexibly must be given that right. The change is in the qualification for people to be able to request flexible working.

She added that she believed flexible working is “good for business, but equally as important, it is good for families and good for society.”

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