Letter: Work and the family

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I was interested to read your leading article entitled "The social costs and personal benefits of working on holidays" (4 January). The Government believes that the right to time off is a vitally important one. That is why we made it a manifesto commitment to implement the Working Time Directive, one of our pledges that we have now met.

Workers should have protection from being made to work long hours. We recognise that flexibility is necessary, allowing those who want to work longer the choice to do so. But it is necessary to establish fair minimum standards in order to protect the most vulnerable.

This supports the Government's wider goal of promoting family-friendly employment. Combining paid work and parenting, or caring for dependants, is hard work. Working parents need as much support as possible. The long hours culture has historically not only created barriers to work for women, but has also prevented many men from taking an active role in their children's upbringing.

Providing limits on working hours, minimum rest periods from work and an entitlement to paid annual leave will help working parents to spend more time with their children and so balance their home and work commitments more successfully.

IAN McCARTNEY

Minister of State

Department of Trade and Industry

London SW1

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