Small Firms anxious about Flexible Working extension

Flexible Working

More than a third of small firms will find it difficult to offer more flexible working when the right to request it is extended to most working parents in April 2009, according to Alliance & Leicester.

Flexible Working

Some 38% of respondents to a survey by the bank said they would struggle to offer flexible working to more employees. 65% claimed they did not have enough staff to provide cover when someone is needed in the workplace.

An overwhelming 86% of small–business owners said it would be easier for large firms to implement the change to flexible working law, which will allow working parents of any children under 16 to ask to work from home or to work irregular hours. Currently, only parents of children under six and disabled children have this right.

The Government is now consulting business owners on the best way to implement the change, which is expected to come into effect in April 2009.

“Small businesses are already under increased pressure to cut costs and increase productivity, and they are worried about how they will manage this added burden on their business,” said Alliance & Leicester’s director of business banking, Steve Jennings.

The survey also found that almost half (45%) of small–business owners felt that having more staff working flexibly would be disruptive to their operation, and 29% were concerned about the financial impact of possibly having to take on extra staff.FSB spokesperson Prue Watson said:

“This extension of the right to request introduces more paperwork and increases costs and stress levels for employers. There is a lack of information for small businesses surrounding the issue, and if the government made more information available it would ease the pressure.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) disagreed, however. CIPD employee relations adviser Mike Emmot said.

“The extension to the right to request flexible working should not pose a problem for SMEs. Contrary to perception, small firms can implement flexible working arrangements better and with less bureaucracy than large firms”.

“There is a clear business case for flexible working in small and large organisations,” he continued. “In addition to the impact on firms’ bottom line, flexibility can help reduce the stress that many employees feel when they try to balance the demands of home and working life. Firms can also benefit from the positive impact of flexible working on their reputation as a responsible employer.”

For more information on the consultation and to fill in a free online survey on your views, visit the website of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

For more information on flexible working, please read our article.

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