The Institute of Directors has offered the UK
government what they are calling '24 freebies' -
ideas that would cost nothing to implement but that
would boost growth.
These range from allowing wholesale building on
green built land, to focusing public investment on
'winners, not losers' (i.e. put money into high
growth areas, and less into economic bottomless
pits), to reforming employment law.
Abolishing the 'right to request'
According to the IoD, the government should:
"Abolish the existing rights to request
flexible working and training. Currently the
Government proposes to extend the flexible right
to all parents with children under 18, and looks
set to retain the training right introduced by
the previous administration. There is no need to
formalise rights which exist informally already,
because when you formalise a process it creates
new cost burdens, on small firms in particular."
In their commentary they add: "This right creates
red tape for firms, and does little or nothing to
boost flexible working'.
It is true some larger organisations make a bit
of a meal of creating structures to respond to the
legislation, but on the whole the legislation is
remarkably light touch, it appears to us here at
Flexibility. The cost burden is surely
And it's not really true that the right
exists informally anyway. In theory anyone can ask
for flexible working, but evidence from before the
legislation was passed showed that some employers
would just dismiss it out of hand. And it's
still the case that many employees fear they will
get into trouble if they request flexible working,
so just don't ask.
Here at Flexibility, while we
feel that the 'right to request' is not perfect,
what it has done is raise awareness of the options
and opportunities. And this is also the case
for many bosses who have come to see the light, and
realise that properly implemented flexible working
can realise many benefits for the business.
Bringing back the default retirement age
The IoD briefing paper offers the government this
"Drop proposals to abolish the default
retirement age. Why does the Government want
to make it harder for companies to remove staff
who are no longer effective? [My italics] No
sensible employer is going to get rid of someone
if they are performing. By removing the DRA you
are forcing employers, who will have to
remove older staff at some point, to manage
them out through the normal dismissal
procedures. This is immensely time consuming,
complex and costly for small businesses and is
fraught with the risk of tribunals."
This astonishing recommendation is both ageist
and, it seems, ignorant of the actual proposals.
What is most offensive is that the writers of this
seem to feel there is a necessary connection between
reaching a certain age and an inevitable decline in
performance that is sufficient to merit being
There are of course many high level
occupations that don't have a default retirement age
- monarchs, politicians, priests, popes, judges and,
dare I say it, company directors.
flexible future for growth
The IoD should know better. The
Confederation of British Industry (the larger
employers' organisation) takes the opposite point of
view, and is an active supporter of flexible
The measures about changing labour law in
the IoD's '24 freebies' would have no impact at all
on economic growth. However, entrepreneurs who
embrace new ways of working to recruit the best
talent (wherever they are and regardless of age,
gender and caring responsibilities), extend their
hours of service using staff who work non-standard
hours, reduce their property requirements and reduce
their travel by having more staff located from home
and working on the move - these are the
entrepreneurs who will prosper and drive forward
And the way to make it happen is
to match the business objectives of the company with
employees' aspirations for better balance and
control in their lives.