Employers reject more flexible working

2004

British employers overwhelmingly oppose the government's plans to increase flexible working rights and extend paid maternity leave, a new survey has found.

Highlighting the growing rift between the government and Britain's small businesses, a survey of 1,200 employers by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has found that eight out of 10 reject the government’s flagship policy of extending paid maternity leave that is expected to be unveiled prior to the next election.

Opposition to the question of extending paid maternity leave from six to 12 months got stronger as the business size decreased. In businesses with less than 50 employees, the opposition went up to 84 per cent.

On another key policy to extend the right to request flexible working, more than six out of 10 (62 per cent) opposed any increases in legislation. Again those firms with less than 50 employees came out as the strongest opposition at more than three-quarters (76 per cent).

Yesterday the Federation of Small Businesses warned that small businesses "have reached saturation point" in regard to the amount of employment law they can take on board, while last week the Small Business Council said that excessive regulation was stifling enterprise and discouraging the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“Business has sent a powerful message to Government that they cannot support increased flexible working rights," said BCC Director General, David Frost.

"The strongest opposition came from small businesses who are fearful that they will be unable to cope if these new proposals came in.

"Businesses already have a raft of regulations to deal with and these types of policies will have a direct and damaging impact on the way a boss runs his or her company. In addition it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to plan around parental leave when staff only have to give minimum notice if they are going to come back.

"We have seen a mass of flexible working regulations in recent years, our survey shows that businesses cannot take any more.”