05/04/2004

CBI issues flexible working warning to government

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned the government "not to get carried away" with flexible working, after statistics today revealed that eight out of 10 requests for flexible working are being agreed by employers.

The figures from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), issued to mark the first anniversary of the right for parents to ask to work flexibly, revealed that 77% of requests were accepted fully.

The figures, based on a sample of almost 3,500 employees, also showed that since last April almost a quarter of parents in this category had made the request for flexible working.

However, CBI Director-General Digby Jones said that employers regard any talk of enshrining the request in law as "premature".

Flexible working gives employers access to new pools of skilled labour, he said, but that did not mean the government should get carried away with early success.

He added: "Ministers should dismiss any renewed calls to turn the right to request flexible work into a regulated obligation bound up in red tape to provide flexible working on a one-size-fits-all basis.

"We had that debate two years ago and the idea was considered totally impractical and damaging to competitiveness. They should also be clear that it is too early to assess the impact of the legislation and until that time comes nobody should make any assumptions about extensions."

Mr Jones called for further assessments to be made on all aspects of flexible working, and the relative impact on company performance.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said that today's figures should give more parents the confidence to raise the issue with their boss either informally on through the new right.

(gmcg)

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