Manufacturers call for delay on the extension of flexible working

The manufacturers’ organisation EEF †has called upon the government to delay plans to extend the right to work flexibly until employers have adjusted to current legislation.

The government commissioned the Walsh Review to look at whether flexible working should be extended to parents of children older than six. The findings of the review, which has been conducted by Imelda Walsh, human resources director at Sainsbury’s, are expected to be released in the next few weeks.

EEF, representing 6,000 companies, fears that an extension to flexible working beyond the current statutory rights, would increase the number of requests to work flexibly. It fears that this would raise the risk of employers denying employees with legitimate reasons for working flexibly, the opportunity to do so.

These fears were raised after EEF conducted a survey of 446 companies in February 2008, which showed two thirds of employers found that flexible working had created practical problems and the majority of them opposed plans to extend the legislation.

Peter Schofield, EEF’s director of employment and legal affairs, said: “Whilst manufacturers have seen the benefits from the introduction of flexible working, the last thing they need now is to have to consider more requests. They need to be given time before this right is extended to more employees. If it is extended, they are more likely to say no and some people who really need to work flexibly could then miss out.”

EEF also believes the legal right to request flexible working should only cover employees with caring responsibilities and that line managers should be given more support and advice on handling flexible working arrangements.

EEF also takes the view that employers must continue to have the ability to reject requests for flexible working on genuine business grounds and that the right to request flexible working should only apply, as they do currently, after 26 weeks’ employment.