Business lobby group blast minister’s comments on flexible working to avoid rush hour

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LibDem Business Minister Jo Swinson told a House of Commons Business Committee on women's workplace rights earlier this week that employees should be able to request the right to come into work earlier or later to avoid peak time travel.

All employees with at least six months service would be able to request flexible working from next year, with Ms Swinson advocating this be extended to allow staff to use it to avoid the rush hour crush.

The Forum's Head of Policy, Alex Jackman, said: "Small businesses shouldn't have administrative complexities thrust upon them because our roads are congested and often poorly maintained, the rail network is bursting at the seams and lacking adequate rolling stock. It's just nonsensical.

"The notion workers should be allowed to pick and choose their hours because of successive governments' failure to deliver credible improvements to the country's transport infrastructure is ridiculous.

"If flexible working works for businesses they will do it themselves. What they don't need is unworkable suggestions from ministers made on the hoof."

He added: "Just imagine what this would mean on the ground for most businesses: longer opening hours would mean higher office running costs – will the Government pay for the increase in energy bills?

"Then there's key holder responsibility issues, monitoring time keeping would be a job in itself, and crucial to any business is the ability of employees to communicate with ease and consistency. Wildly different working hours would also make business-to-business communication much more difficult.

"Maybe the Government should ask schools to start earlier instead, thereby allowing children to be delivered earlier and easing the traditional rush hour for others. Or maybe they should just up investment of roads and railways to address the capacity issues."

The Forum has previously been critical of the extension of workers' rights which puts onerous demands on business owners. March sees parental leave rights following the birth or adoption of a child increasing from three to four months.

"If Government wants small business to help boost the UK economy it must help not hinder. To hear a business minister advocating yet more burdensome rights for employees is frankly concerning.

"We have asked to meet with Jo Swinson to discuss this matter further," added Jackman.

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A suggestion by a Government minister that workers should be allowed to ask for flexible working to avoid rush hour congestion has been branded ‘nonsensical' by the Forum of Private Business.