More flexible parenting

MT has always championed flexible working – if done right, it can lead to a happier, better-motivated and more productive workforce. But the government’s plans to extend this right, announced yesterday in the Queen’s Speech, will have expensive implications for British businesses – so however noble its aims, it’s unlikely to be universally popular.

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Currently parents with children under six (or with disabled children under 18) have the right to demand flexible working – and in most circumstances, employers are duty bound to provide it. The government reckons this has been so successful that it now wants to apply this principle to parents of older children, particularly those taking exams or changing schools.

This is likely to give another 4.5m people an opportunity to improve their work-life balance - a cause that MT has supported for a long time (see here and here for some early examples).

The government’s theory seems to be that if working parents spend more time with their teenage children, it will encourage them to spend more time doing their homework, and less time hanging out in the park drinking cider and filming happy-slapping attacks on their mobile phones.

The only problem is that implementing this policy may come at a cost for businesses – particularly smaller ones. John Wright, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, warned that employers need to have the final say. ‘The Government needs to recognise that the reality in a business is that the employees need to be at work to enable the firm to make money, pay their wages and grow to employ others,’ he said yesterday.

So unless the rules are sympathetically framed, the Government runs the risk of making some more enemies – and after alienating most of the entrepreneurial community with its proposal to increase the lowest rate of capital gains tax, they don’t want to be boosting the (allegedly swelling) ranks of Tory voters any more than they have done already.

Still, at least businesses have a communal platform from which to put forward their concerns. Another major faction affected by this debate has no such voice – after all, how many teenagers will be thrilled about the idea of spending more time hanging out with their parents?

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