The chief executive of the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce, Simon Beardsley, explains how Nick Clegg's plans for flexitime work patterns for families could impact on local firms...
The Deputy Prime Minster has set out a new proposal that aims to give all workers the right to flexible working hours so that they can work from home or take advantage of flexitime arrangements.
He has also looked at the idea of encouraging mothers and fathers to share their maternity and paternity duties just two weeks after a birth.
The new package aims to make flexi-working the norm and drive a change to the current 9 to 5 office culture seen in the UK. It is also designed to help more mothers back into the workplace as well as making childcare arrangements to be more flexible.
The concept of flexible working is a good one, but the current proposals to extend the rights to all employees could make it more difficult for employers to manage. We must not underestimate how many businesses already offer flexible working hours for their staff.
In Lincolnshire, many business owners themselves have to juggle family life with their working life, so they already understand the logic of giving new parents more flexibility.
Unfortunately, the Government's current proposals risk causing unnecessary friction between parents and employers, and raises unrealistic expectations about the level of flexibility most businesses will be able to accommodate.
The Government's plans could also generate major uncertainty for employers, as they will represent the seventh change to parental leave in the last ten years.
It is right and desirable that a mother should be able to return to work when she feels ready, and transfer her remaining parental leave and pay to her partner.
But such requests, to mix and match maternity and paternity arrangements, could end up being a four-way decision between the mother and her employer, and the father and his employer.
A decision of this nature needs to allow sufficient time for both employers to manage their planned cover. Such legislation could have a negative impact on businesses that are already struggling in a difficult economy.