Election Mayhem 1: Flexible Working

Have you noticed that there’s an election looming? I’m not going to get all political on you but I thought a quick span of the major party’s attitudes to remote/flexible working and related technologies might make interesting reading.

I wanted to start off with the idea of flexible Working. All three main parties have been pretty vocal in this area and claim to see flexible employment as the way forward.

Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg offered support for flexible working as part of his policies affecting families. He has said that if he is successful in the upcoming general election, he would extend the right to request remote access working to all employees (i.e. grandparents etc. could also ask).

Families support each other in different ways, whether it’s with babysitting or picking the kids up from school – grandparents often play a particularly important role. We want to make it easier for everyone – not just parents – to change their working arrangements to fit in with the demands of family life. We will therefore extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.

The Liberal Democrats will also allow parents to share the allocation of maternity and paternity leave between them in whatever way suits them best, seek to extend the period of shared parental leave up to 18 months when resources and economic circumstances allow and scrap compulsory retirement ages, allowing those who wish to continue in work to do so.

Conservatives

Phil Hammond, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary is quoted as saying

The Conservative Party believes that flexible working practice is the future – for both public and private sectors. Flexible working practice is a key element in the delivery of economic competitiveness, social justice, affordability in public service delivery and an improvement in General Well Being.

However unlike the Liberal Democrats they believe that what is needed is education, not legislation. They hope that this will “allow all employers across the UK – in all sectors and of all sizes, can see, and take advantage of, the benefits of offering flexible employment“. The conservatives will also introduce a new system of flexible parental leave which lets parents share maternity leave between them, while ensuring that parents on leave can stay in touch with their employer. They will also look at how to abolish the default retirement age, though no commitment here.

Labour

While the other two parties can talk about what they will do Labour can shout about what they’ve already done. They’ve introduced the right to request flexible working and subsequently extended it, now allowing over 4.5 million parents and those with caring responsibilities are free to ask. Labour also claim that they will introduce a new Fathers’ Month, four weeks of paid leave rather than the current two. Like the other two parties Labour will also proceed to end default retirement at 65.

The Reality

Of course “free to ask” doesn’t always mean you get. We still have a way to go to bring working practices in to the 21st century. When you contrast the theory and practice it sometimes seems like the cultural shake up hasn’t even begun.

A blog reader recently drew my attention to this Daily Mail article about a mother who worked for the NHS and was on a £60,000 salary, she now works remotely from Canada. Remote working from another country is becoming increasingly popular and Amanda Hill wrote a great blog post for us on her experiences (Remoter remote working). There are obviously many benefits to employer (they get to keep the best person for the job) and employee (they get to continue working in a job they enjoy while having the flexible lifestyle they prefer). However the daily Mail article talks about the NHS employee as if she is some sort of criminal.

Last night Mike Penning MP, a Tory health spokesman, said: ‘This beggar’s belief. You couldn’t make this up if you tried.

‘It says an awful lot about the management of the NHS and the shambles in which our Health Service finds itself. This woman has, to all intents and purposes, emigrated and yet still finds herself on this staggering salary.

‘That is not what taxpayers’ money should be used for and I urge a full and prompt investigation into what has gone wrong.’

Legally there are no issues with such a practice, the woman obviously continues to pay her National Insurance contributions. However it’s clear from the comments that many (MPs and others) are still failing to understand our changing work culture and the role remote working can potentially play.

Lets hope flexible working becomes more than just an election buzz word.

I’ll take a look at the party policies on technology areas such as ‘super-fast broadband’ next time.

Further Reading

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) Election briefing paper