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Flexible working plans ‘could undermine deregulatory drive’

Plans to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees could undermine the Government’s efforts to tackle red tape, a leading business group has claimed.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has warned that the proposals on flexible working could add to the burden on employers and thus contradict the coalition’s current deregulatory drive.

Earlier this year the Government launched its Modern Workplaces consultation which examines areas such as flexible parental leave, flexible working, equal pay and the Working Time Regulations.

Commenting on the consultation, which closed on 8 August, Alexander Ehmann, Head of Regulation at the IoD, said: ‘Given the Government’s present deregulatory drive, including initiatives such as the Red Tape Challenge, there are serious questions about why it is making these proposals now.

‘The IoD strongly supports flexible working and efforts to expand the talent pool available to employers. In principle, we also support shared parental leave, providing the administration of the leave is not burdensome to employers.

‘Unfortunately, though, the Government is implementing these proposals in a way that will add to the complexity and cost of managing workforces. This contradicts the pro-growth, deregulatory message that we keep hearing from ministers.’

Meanwhile, the TUC has warned that the plans to extend the right to request flexible working could make it easier for bosses to refuse requests because the requirement would no longer be statutory.

‘Weakening the right to request flexible working will give bad employers the wrong message and is the excuse they've been looking for to ignore requests,’ said TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber.

‘The Government should remember how successful and popular this right has been for parents over the last decade and put their needs ahead of the same old carping from business lobbyists.’