Not so flexible after all?

Although 4.5m more parents can now request flexible working, apparently not many of them want to.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

On Monday, another 4.5m people – parents of children under the age of 16 – gained the right to request flexible working, thanks to the Government’s controversial reform. We say controversial because it’s gone down badly with business groups, who argue that placing an extra burden on businesses at a time when so many are struggling to keep their heads above water is not terribly smart. Much though we approve of the flexible working extension in principle, we’re inclined to agree – but the good news for employers is that the vast majority of the newly-eligible have no intention of taking advantage...

61% of adults with children under 16 will definitely not be making a flexible working request, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by Croner (a workplace consultancy that’s part of the Wolters Kluwer media group). With another 22% still undecided, that means just 17% are definitely planning to go ahead – not an insignificant number, but not as many as employer groups feared (and as Croner points out, companies are perfectly entitled to turn requests down if they have a good business reason).

The survey suggests that the reasons for this are pretty straightforward: 50% said they were perfectly happy with their existing arrangements, while another 20% said flexible working just wasn’t practical. Surprisingly, a relatively small proportion cited money worries as the big sticking point – just 6% said they were concerned about the financial implications of working fewer hours, while another 5% said they didn’t dare to ask in the current climate. It appears that most parents have just had plenty of time to work out an arrangement that suits them, and see no need to change it now.

Of course, the irony is that the current climate probably makes employers more amenable to the idea than ever before. Take YouGov, for example. The pollster behind this very survey announced on Monday that its pre-tax profits slumped 90% in the six months to January 31; it’s now cutting 30 jobs in a bid to save £2.5m, described by founder Nadhim Zahawi as ‘right-sizing’ (one of our least favourite euphemisms). If its employees came and asked to work fewer hours at the moment, it would probably bite their hands off...

In today's bulletin:
No surprises as Bank holds rates at 0.5%
Pay gap suggests sexism still rife in the City
US workers to be sacked by reality TV
Chancellor for the Day: Lord Digby Jones
Not so flexible after all?

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