Cautious welcome for flexible working

New plans for working parents have been given a cautious welcome from the North-East Chamber of Commerce.

New plans for working parents have been given a cautious welcome from the North-East Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber president John Irwin thinks new Government standards which aim to help parents with young children balance their work and family commitments are a good idea.

But he added: "The Chamber welcomes any proposals that will make being a working parent an easier balance to achieve, but this has to be put in the context of a business earning a profit and meeting tight deadlines.

"This is often hard to reconcile, particularly within smaller companies, and we would want any flexible working package to be reviewed to see how effective it is for both parents and businesses."

New Government proposals, which are expected to become law in April 2003, say workers should make written requests to management detailing their flexible working needs.

The employer should then make a business assessment on how the employee's needs can be met. The Government estimates that 80pc of requests will be settled at this meeting.

Workers can appeal if their request is turned down and can ultimately go to an employment tribunal.

The Government says that businesses, trade unions and family groups came together in a taskforce to draw up the recommendations.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "It is not the Government's job to tell parents how to lead their lives. But it is our job to provide them with more choice.

"There are still too many old-fashioned businesses that operate as if men were the breadwinners and women the housewives."

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