CBI warns against flexible working

Andrew Grice
Thursday 24 July 2008 00:00 BST

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Employers have warned that the Government's plans to give more mothers and fathers the right to request flexible working could deepen Britain's economic woes.

The Confederation of British Industry urged ministers not to give in to demands by trade unions and Labour activists for a big extension of workplace rights at a meeting of the party's national policy forum starting tomorrow.

The Independent disclosed yesterday that ministers plan to encourage more fathers to work part-time or flexible hours when they extend the right to request flexible working to parents with children aged 16 and under. Ministers believe that tackling the problem of "absent fathers" who rarely see their children because they work long hours may be a factor in social problems such as knife crime.

John Cridland, the CBI's deputy director general, said: "Now is not the time to be placing extra burdens on British business, and people increasingly see this. We already have one of the most generous flexible working systems in Europe, and the Government is already committed to giving more parents the right to request flexible working. Any plans that would hamper our companies as they compete in the global economy should concern us all."

The Tories said Labour was copying their "family-friendly" policies. Alan Duncan, the shadow Business Secretary, accused the unions of "policy extortion" in return for contributing 90 per cent of Labour's funding. He said: "It is profoundly undemocratic that the future direction of this country is being covertly dictated by a small cabal of trade union officials.

"For these discussions to have even a shred of legitimacy, the unions should publish their shopping list of demands in full."

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