SME group slams minister’s rush hour flexi hours idea

A minister’s suggestion that flexbile working hours could be one solution to alleviating rush hour congestion has been attacked by the Forum of Private Business.

Jo Swinson MP, a business minister, made the comment during a statement to the  House of Commons Business Committee on women’s workplace rights. As it stands, staff with six months employment will be allowed to request flexible working from next year, and Ms Swinson suggested such a measure could be extended to limit the rush hour.

The Forum of Private Business’s head of policy Alex Jackman rounded on the minister and blamed rush hour problems on the government: “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 that 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. 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.”

It’s difficult to see how granting staff the right to request flexible hours (where there is no compunction to grant them) represents a particularly onerous administrative burden. Indeed, there are lots of advantages to having a team on flexible hours. It won’t work for all, but it’s always worthy of consideration.

It’s long struck me as ludicrous that as a nation we try and deliver millions of people to work for 9am. As any train, tube or road user knows, even half an hour either way makes for very much more comfortable travel. But what’s more concerning is that Jackman’s not-very-positive tone might be seen as representative of a great many SMEs. What a whinger.