Small and medium-sized businesses embrace flexible working

A survey finds small and medium-sized businesses back flexible working, but parents are worried about the impact of new maternity and paternity legislation. Plus other news

Small and medium sized businesses are embracing flexible working, but are more cautious about legislation extending maternity and paternity leave, says a survey.

The Citrix Online study of 1,800 working parents and 298 SMB managers, found three quarters of businesses offered flexible working and a half favoured flexible working being extended to parents of older children.

However, 46% of dads and 44% of mums believed extending paid paternity leave to 26 weeks if the mother returns to work and maternity leave from 39 to 52 weeks could be prejudicial to their career progression.

Flexible working was favoured above changes to maternity and paternity leave and more than half of women put some element of working from home as the top benefit they could be offered.

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Government ‘should pay parents to stay at home’

The Government should pay parents of young children to spend time with them rather than pressuring them to go to work, the leader of the National Association of Head Teachers told a conference last week.

Clarissa Williams, president of the NAHT, told the association’s annual conference in Liverpool that parents should be encouraged to spend time interacting with their children. The Government should respect the fact that, while some children responded well to being sent to nursery at an early age, many did not.

Williams also argued that parents on benefits should be rewarded financially for good parenting such as helping out at their children’s schools rather than being handed out parenting orders when things went wrong.

Critics argued that Williams’ call for paying mothers to stay at home was unworkable.

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Morale up due to flexible working

Some 50% of firms report improvements in staff morale and motivation and a reduction in staff turnover following the introduction of flexible working, according to a survey.

Thirteen per cent of the 446 firms surveyed by leading manufacturers’ body EEF said they had seen improved productivity and 11% reported cost savings. Most had introduced flexible working.

The EEF says the figures on increased productivity are lower than might be expected and that most of the companies had experienced some practical problems as a result of flexible working legislation. This, it said, should cause the Government to reconsider proposals to extend flexible working to parents of children over six.

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