Government must encourage flexible working

In the House of Commons yesterday, Jo called on the Government to do more to encourage businesses to allow flexible working.

Questioning the Minister for Women and Equality, Jo argued that flexible working policies benefit employees with families and improve productivity for businesses. She called on the Government to encourage businesses to create more part-time positions at senior levels and to look at job sharing as a positive option.

A 2009 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that more than half of parents said their current division of parental and work responsibilities is decided by necessity rather than choice. The survey also revealed 69% of flexible workers said they spend more time with their family, and 59% believe that it improves the quality of their lives and their children’s.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for all employees to have the right to request flexible working.

Commenting, Jo said:

“Many parents find it extremely difficult to juggle a busy working life with their family responsibilities. Most families need to have two working parents for financial reasons, but a lot of jobs do not offer the kind of flexibility that would make people’s lives so much easier. Our working culture in this country puts people with caring responsibilities at a significant disadvantage, particular in getting promoted to senior positions.

“The evidence shows that being able to work flexibly not only allows parents to spend more quality time with their children, it can also make them more productive workers. Businesses could really benefit from introducing flexible working policies, but the Government must do a better job of making them aware of those benefits.”

The text of Jo’s question to the Minister for Women and Equality appears below:

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): Many businesses find that operating a flexible working policy brings huge productivity gains, as well as being good for those with families, although some remain either unconvinced or unsure of how to go about it. What can the Government do to promote the business benefits of flexible working too, and encourage more organisations to take it up, whether by creating part-time roles at senior levels or pursuing such policies as job sharing?

Maria Eagle: The hon. Lady is right. We do a range of such work. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions recently announced that we would bring together employers, business representatives and the TUC to look at how to improve family-friendly working practices further. That type of pragmatic three-way discussion does just that: it is successful, and it is good news for employees and employers. In other words, it is a typical, good Labour policy.

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