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Working Hours

Volume 462: debated on Monday 25 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what estimate he has made of the percentage of men who would like to work more flexibly; (144147)

(2) what steps are being taken to raise awareness of the business case for flexible working among employers;

(3) what research he has (a) examined and (b) commissioned on the impact of increasing flexible working on skills shortages in the UK;

(4) whether he has made an assessment of the impact of flexible working on productivity.

No specific research has been commissioned by DTI on flexible working and skill shortages in the UK. However, to the extent that flexible working helps employers both to recruit and retain skilled staff, it will help to reduce skill shortages in the UK. DTI research has found that many employees consider the availability of flexible working to be important when deciding to work with their current employer.

With regard to the percentage of men who would like to work more flexibly the DTIs Third Work-Life Balance Employee Survey found that almost half (46 per cent.) either were currently working flexibly, or had done so in the past year. When men who had not made a request to work flexibly were asked why, more than three-fifths said they were happy with their current arrangements or gave other personal reasons. Overall, 86 per cent. of male employees said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their current working arrangements, compared with only 5 per cent. who were dissatisfied and 1 per cent. who were very dissatisfied.

The relationship between various workplace practices and productivity is a complex one, mediated by a host of other variables; studies often find no statistically significant relationship. The relationship between work-life balance and labour productivity was investigated in Chapter 10 of the DTI-sponsored report, ‘Inside the Workplace: Findings from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey’ (Routledge 2006). It was found that work-life balance practices were not jointly significant when added to the baseline labour productivity model. A forthcoming DTI research report, however, has found that in private sector workplaces an increased incidence of family-friendly provisions is positively associated with managers’ perceptions of improved financial performance.

In terms of raising awareness of the business case for flexible working among employers, the DTI has recently worked with Carers UK, ACAS, British Chambers of Commerce and British Gas to produce an employer's pack which illustrates the business case for flexible working. The Business Link website provides advice and guidance on flexible working and highlights the business case and benefits to employers of working flexibly.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what definition he uses of flexible working for the purposes of departmental policy. (144150)

The DTI considers “flexible working” to cover a range of solutions that enable its staff to work in a variety of patterns and locations while allowing the Department to efficiently deploy its resources to meet and adapt to changing business needs. Flexible working options available to staff include:

Part time working;

Job sharing;

Flexi time;

Home working;

Compressed hours;

Annualised hours;

Team time working.

The Department recognises the benefits that flexible working can bring to its staff, to the successful delivery of its business strategy and its customers.