A SURVEYof working parents in Yorkshire on flexible working hours has shown an ambivalent attitude.
Just over half (51%) thought their children would benefit from a scheme at their own place of employment, which means that a massive 49% didn’t, or didn’t know what to think.
A great number thought that their employers wouldn’t like a request for lifestyle-driven hours, fearing it would damage their promotion prospects and mark them as less committed to their job.
Some jobs don’t allow it. Teachers, for instance, will be tied to school hours, nurses and doctors to their shifts, journalists to their deadlines for the foreseeable future.
But for others, it may be the way forward, giving employees freedoms without detracting from – and indeed, possibly enhancing – their efficiency at work.
The theory is that parents who are able to spend more time with their children may well head off trouble with truancy and yobbish behaviour later on.
Flexitime is hardly a novel concept. The Government has accepted its efficacy and made it law last week that all parents of children aged 16 and under can ask their bosses for flexible working arrangements.
Clearly, many are not going to, given the weight of prejudice against it.
Yet we know that it works well in Kirklees.
For several years the council has been a leader in creating a flexible working environment for hundreds of its employees.
It has given workers the ability to build up hours to enable them to take extra paid time off in addition to their holiday entitlements.
It’s possible, in some circumstances, to take up to five years off as a career break and return to full time employment.
Then there’s job-sharing, compressed working hours, and voluntary reduced work time, all of which are above legal requirements.
Flexible working has been espoused by many other organisations. One such is the Kirklees offshoot, the charity Kirklees Active Leisure, which runs the borough’s swimming pools, fitness centres and other recreational facilities.
It employs about 700 people, most of whom have been entitled to apply for flexible working for many years.
What do their workers think of it?
James Penson, in sales, lives in Stainland.
“I don’t work Fridays. It works well for me and well for the role I have, and working Saturdays when it’s quiet is a good way to get work done in the office,” he said.
He has one boy, Douglas, and his wife works full time Monday to Friday.
“It gives me an extra day and saves us a full day’s child-minding fees,” he added.
Rosey James, PR and marketing assistant, of Emley, said: “Flexitime helps me because at lunchtimes I like to do fitness classes.
“Chris (her husband) takes the kids to nursery on at least one day.
“I can pick them up and make the time up later. If they’re poorly I can take time off to look after them and make it up without having to take holiday time off.”
Tina Roper, marketing and PR co-ordinator, of Longwood, said: “My mother in law usually looks after my dog Lucy, a golden retriever, but when she can’t flexitime solves the problem immediately.
“I can take two hours at lunch and be home so that Lucy isn’t left on her own more than a couple of hours at a stretch.”
The point being that flexitime helps people get their work-life balance right. When that is achieved, it is hard to see how employers or employees can lose.