Hewitt defends flexible working law

first_img Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Hewitt defends flexible working lawOn 15 Apr 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt talks to Personnel Today aboutthe effect she hopes the Employment Act will have in encouraging employers toimprove the work-life balance of their staff. The Act, which came into force on6 April, gives the parents of children aged under six the right to requestflexible working arrangementsQ The legislation places a lot of responsibility on both employers andstaff to assess the potential for flexible working. Why is that? A What we are trying to do is use legislation in a new way. Whencreating new rights, the law can create an adversarial situation. We wanted toavoid this by getting the manager and the employee to sit down together andagree on something that will work for both of them. It’s a different use oflegislation and I believe it will work. Q Do you think many employers will comply with the legislation? A Getting a better work-life balance is becoming far more importantfor all employees – men as much as women. The best businesses are alreadyswitched on to this and are using flexible working policies to attract andretain the people they need. As I go around the country, I am struck by thenumber of employers that raise the issue with me, as they talk about the warfor talent. I think the majority of employers will offer family-friendlyworking. Q Won’t some organisations and line managers just go through the motionsthough? A There are still some employers who will say they’re not interested, youcan’t work here if you want to work hours like that. There might be others wholook at the form, tick the boxes and are perfunctory about the whole procedure.I think they will be in the minority and tribunals can look at that. Q How will you know if the legislation is a success or not? A What we are doing is running a benchmarking survey at the moment.That will tell us what employees feel now, if they have satisfactory hours andhow happy they are. We intend to monitor it over the next three years. We willmonitor calls coming into the helpline, tribunal cases, unions, employers andemployee organisations to give us a picture of whether the law will deliver forindividuals. Q Some say the legislation could create divisions within the workplace,with childless workers feeling that parents have access to better employmentrights. Do you think that will happen? A I think a lot of employers are actually saying that if we are doingthis for parents, we don’t want people who don’t have young children to feelleft out, so let’s make this work for everyone. Q Are you saying that the legislation could have a wider effect on theway companies operate, re-assessing the way all of their staff work? A I think we are moving into a completely different system oforganising work, instead of the old nine-to-five standard working hours,full-time life work for men. It will help people get thinking in much moreradical ways. Q Do you not think it would have been fairer to extend the legislation tocover all employees? A As far as the law is concerned, we were right to say it’s aboutparents with young children or children with disabilities, because it isimportant that children grow up well. If we had tried to legislate for everybody, it would probably never havehappened. www.dti.gov.uklast_img read more

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