Flexible-Work Laws Put the Family First

Article excerpt

Byline: MALIK THAHID

New rules will give parents more time at home and help firms to keep staff WORKING parents face a dilemma each day - do they work more hours to please the boss, or work fewer and see more of their family?

According to a Government report, employees with children would rather work fewer hours than win the Lotto. But changes to employment law that take effect next month could help parents to strike a better balance.

Britain already has the worst record on working hours in Europe, with 16 per cent of employees clocking up more than 60 hours a week.

A survey by the Department of Trade and Industry reveals that long hours and lack of flexible working are raising stress levels. The findings also show that stress-related absenteeism is costing employers more than pound sterling7 million every week.

But from April, the Government will bring in a range of family-friendly laws, allowing parents to spend more time at home and encouraging more parents back into the workforce.

The new rights will mean more pay and more time off for new mothers, fathers and adoptive parents. For the first time, working parents will have the right to ask to work flexibly and receive two weeks' paid paternal leave.

The new laws are expected to provide parents with more opportunity to balance work and family life while helping employers retain valuable skills and experience.

Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt says: 'Research has shown that by best practice alone it could take up to 20 years to bring about change in the way we work. The parents of young children cannot wait that long for the work-life balance message to get through to all employers and this is why we must do something now.

'I hope these new laws will encourage a step away from the culture of long hours. Employers will also benefit by holding on to those key workers who are crucial to the business.

'These laws are good for parents, good for children and good for employers.'

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary-elect, says: 'Firms whose workers enjoy the benefits of flexible working are likely to feel less stressed, anxious and hassled about balancing their lives at home and at work. Long hours have had a damaging effect on too many families and enough is enough. …