Queen's speech receives mixed reaction from industry bodies

Spokesmen for leading industry professional bodies in the UK have mostly welcomed the Queen’s speech

Commenting on the rights to request time off for training, Petra Wilton, director of policy and research at the CMI said: “There is an urgent need to increase levels of skills training, particularly those associated with leadership and management, and we believe that the new Bill will have a positive effect. Our most recent survey shows that 64 per cent of employers consider that this new right to request will increase training levels, with nearly 60 per cent agreeing that it would improve employee motivation.”

Wilton added that the proposals come as the need for leadership and management skills is growing across the economy. Figures show that the number of UK managers is predicted to grow by 1.3 per cent per annum between now and 2014, yet 36 per cent of organisations report that their managers are not proficient. “The bottom line is that we need more, better qualified managers in the UK in order to remain competitive on a global scale.”

Commenting on the extension of the right to request flexible working, Wilton argued that: “Only a minority of managers and leaders supported initial suggestions to delay these proposals." In fact, more than half went further and called for ‘flexible working for all’. In an age where the majority of employees regularly work excessive hours, surely the point for employers to focus on is the end results and quality of work rather than seeking conformity across individual working patterns.

The CBI’s deputy director-general, John Cridland, said: “The Prime Minister has rightly focused on measures affecting the economy in this year’s Queen’s Speech. New legislation means that an extra 4.5 million employees will have the right to request flexible working. We understand the reasons for this, but we think that the decision to implement this policy in April rather than later in the year is a mistake. It will place an extra administrative burden on companies at a difficult time, when they are already struggling to cope with the economic downturn.”

Commenting on training, Cridland said that while employers invest £39bn every year in staff training and regularly discuss skills and training needs with their employees, the proposals must ensure employers only accept requests for relevant training, to help build a stronger skills base and a more competitive economy.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has welcomed elements of the Queen’s Speech and fresh proposals on flexible working. The Institute particularly welcomed the government’s decision to stick with plans to extend the right to request flexible working to the parents of older children, after earlier reports had suggested this measure was to be delayed due to the current economic environment. 

Commenting on flexible working Jackie Orme, CIPD chief executive, said: “We are delighted that CIPD calls for the government to hold its nerve and proceed with the extension of the right to request flexible working have been heeded. This legislation is where the politicians’ favourites of hard working families and hard-pressed small businesses come together. Too many commentators and business bodies represent this as a clash. But all our evidence shows that flexible working is good for employers and employees alike”

Orme went on to say that part-time and flexible workers are happier, more engaged with their work, and more likely to perform better and be more productive. “Offering flexible working is one way of making sure you maintain that all important engagement. A delay to ‘reduce burdens’ on business would have sent out the completely the wrong message, and would have damaged efforts to make the substantial business case for flexible working.”

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