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Institute of Directors call for end to 'right to request'

And keep default retirement age so we can sack old duffers, says lobby group

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 minimal.

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 advice:

"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 sacked.

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.

Embracing a 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 working.

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 economic growth.

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.




February 2011





All material copyright Flexibility.co.uk 2009