The government is approaching the issue of flexible working from the wrong angle, a leading employment expert has claimed.
Kevin Green, chief executive at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), believes the coalition is wrong to focus on parents in its latest reform of the system.
Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the parents of newborn children will be able to share the full maternity leave period.
This means that if the mother wishes to return to work two weeks after the birth, the father can take paternity leave in her absence.
Mr Clegg said the reforms are being planned in order to prevent female professionals from being held back in their careers once they decide to start a family.
But REC chief Mr Green believes businesses should be considering more flexible working patterns for all their staff, not merely parents.
And they should do so not because it is seen as a benefit to workers but as there are "solid, commercial reasons" for being more flexible, he stated.
"Employers can reduce absenteeism, improve staff morale and productivity and are better able to attract and retain top talent if they adopt more flexible working arrangements," Mr Green proposed.
"Recruiters can help employers to embed flexible working practices and review job design."
He said that more government regulation is not the solution to making this behaviour more widespread, and it could actually hinder it.
"Most employers say informal negotiation between line managers and staff is the preferred route to flexibility," Mr Green noted.
"Some see extensions to the right to request as a regulatory risk.
"In the end, it’s all about workplace culture, and that’s something you have to foster, role-model and encourage. It’s very hard to achieve with legislation.”
Posted by Jon Aspinell on 15th November 2012
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