Flexibility a big issue
May 21 2008 by Henryk Zientek, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
NEW rules over flexible working will hit Yorkshire manufacturers.
They will face “practical problems” in complying with the new rules, which make it easier for employees to ask for flexible hours and to take time off work for training.
An extra 4.5m parents in Britain will gain the right to ask for flexible working following the publication of the Government’s independent review.
Business Secretary John Hutton said he had accepted recommendations made by Imelda Walsh, human resources director at supermarket company Sainsbury’s, to extend the right for flexible working to parents of children aged up to 16.
The Government is now consulting businesses and other interested groups on the proposals.
But employers group the Engineering Employers’ Federation said a survey of 446 companies found flexible working had created practical problems for two-thirds of firms.
The most common were extra pressure on other employees, difficulties arising from sections being left short-staffed and difficulty in managing flexible working practices.
Alan Hall, the federation’s regional director, said: “Our evidence suggests that while many companies had seen the benefits of flexible working, a majority had experienced problems in adapting to the legislation.
“Giving yet more employees the right to request time off will impact especially hard on the smallest companies, which are already struggling to adapt to flexible working.
“This will increasingly require employers to adopt the judgement of Solomon in deciding who has time off for training or who is allowed flexible working.”
The EEF had urged the Government to delay plans to extend the right to ask for flexible working to more employees until companies had adjusted or risk denying employees with legitimate reasons for asking to work flexibly the opportunity to do so.
Mr Hall said proposals to extend the amount of time off for training “will not on their own result in improved skills”.
He added: “Any moves to raise individuals’ involvement in their skills development cannot be introduced in isolation.
“Importantly, this should not divert the focus from supporting companies taking a structured approach to quality training.”