17/11/2005

Union calls for more flexible working hours

The Trades Union Congress has called for more flexible working hours, after research showed that nearly 10% of UK employees would like to work fewer hours, even if it meant receiving less pay.

The TUC’s study found that more than half a million workers have had a request for a shorter working hours turned down by their employers. Over three-quarters of those surveyed also said that they had no element of flexibility in their employment contracts.

The TUC had called for employers to introduce changed ways of working that suit both companies and individuals alike.

The union found that public sector workers were more likely to have a greater work/life balance than people working for private firms. Only 6% of private sector employees were on flexitime, compared to almost 20% of public sector workers.

The report also found that there are now 150,000 more people now working on flexitime since the right to request flexible working time was introduced in April 2003. However, the TUC said that this was still only a little over one in ten of UK employees, whereas in Germany, the percentage of employees on flexitime is three times as high.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Employers should not see flexible working as a burden, but as a positive move that makes sound business sense.

“The right to request to work flexibly has unfortunately had little impact on the UK's long hours culture. Though a few forward thinking employers can see the benefit of a more intelligent organisation of workload and working hours, many bosses are not imaginative enough to meet flexible requests from employees with anything other than a firm no.

“Extending the right to request to work flexibly to all workers might actually help more employers embrace a new working culture that benefits them as well. Sadly, our figures suggest that the day when all employees can enjoy a decent work/life balance is still some considerable way off.”

The report has been published to coincide with the first day of a major two-day conference organised by the European Trades Union Conference and the TUC to discuss flexible working.

(KMcA/SP)

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