Home Secretary promotes ‘Building Modern, Flexible Workplaces’.

Friday, 18 November 2011

In her speech on women and the economy on 4 November, Teresa May reiterates what members of Employers for Carers know, that it ‘makes good business sense to run a flexible workforce’:


“In a global economy, the world doesn't stop at 5pm Greenwich Mean Time; nor do international businesses, overseas customers, or foreign markets – and so British companies can't either. They need a flexible workforce.


Many of our most forward-thinking employers already recognise this – and they're reaping the rewards.


They know that flexible working helps them draw on a wider pool of skills and talent, improves staff morale and productivity, and helps them keep their valued members of staff.


Centrica, for example, actively promotes flexible working to all its employees. That’s because they’ve found that flexible workers show greater commitment and job satisfaction. And a satisfied and committed worker is a productive worker.


Now, 60% of Centrica employees have some form of flexible working arrangements in place and, interestingly, well over half of those flexible workers are men.


Employers like this know it makes good business sense to run a flexible workplace.


But as a government, we can do more to encourage the shift that is already happening in our society and in our economy.


It's true, as I say, that many women and many businesses have already benefited from the introduction of flexible working for parents and carers.


But by restricting flexible working to certain groups, the idea was perpetuated that it’s some sort of special treatment, rather than being a sensible way to run a business.


I want to help all hard working employees to balance their work and other commitments by extending the right to request flexible working to everyone.


That will help shift attitudes and it will help encourage more firms to follow the lead of Centrica in making flexible working an integral part of their business model.


And we can go even further.


Many businesses already recognise that good workplace policies can help them retain their skilled female workers.


Indeed, recently there's been a significant drop in the number of women changing employers when they return from maternity leave. That's important for companies in retaining skilled employees and it's important for women in maintaining their levels of pay and their positions at work.


But the current system of maternity and paternity leave just reinforces the old stereotype that when a couple start a family, women should stay at home and look after the children and men should go out to work and earn the money.


Why does the state assume that it is the mother who should stay at home and care for the kids? What if the mother earns more? What if she finds her job more rewarding than the father does? What if the dad simply wants to take on more of the caring responsibilities?


It shouldn't be up to the government to decide who looks after children – it should be up to the parents. So let’s give working parents a helping hand by letting them decide.


Under our proposed new system of flexible parental leave, if fathers want to take more of a role in raising their children, they can. If mothers want to return to work earlier, they can. If both parents want to spend some time at home together after the birth of their child, they can.


What matters is that both parents will have the choice to decide what is right for them and what is right for their family.


That will make a real difference for working women and it will make a real difference for fathers.


Because I don't just want women to have the flexibility to juggle work and caring. I want men to have the opportunity to take on more of the caring responsibilities as well.


I don't just want to give women more choice. I also want women to no longer be the only ones who have to choose.”