Demos calls for introduction of contributory carers account
Demos, a policy think-tank, has called for the introduction of a pension-style, contribution-based fund to make shared parental leave more affordable for both parents and employers and encourage more fathers to take paternity leave.
The proposal is one of a raft of recommendations included in a report funded by John Lewis Partnership examining flexible working and parental leave arrangements.
Over the last ten years, flexible working practices have become integrated into the economy – almost 60% of employees currently use a form of flexible working, according to Demos. "This government has pledged to go even further – the right to flexible working for all was enshrined in the Coalition agreement – but it has vacillated in the face of pressure from the business lobby."
Entitled “Reinventing the Workplace”, the report is based on new polling of employees and employers, as well as focus groups and structured interviews with managers and employees in “vanguard” businesses. Demos says: “It would be both economically short-sighted and socially irresponsible to roll back the progress made over the past decade, due to pressures in a time of economic uncertainty. The recession will not go on forever, whereas the need for flexible work has been a long time coming, as the care responsibilities of those in employment have increased with the growth of shared parenting, more mothers returning to work and an ageing population.”
The report makes the business case for flexible work - employers benefit by lowering estate costs, retaining staff, increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism. “It proved its worth at the height of the financial crisis, when co-operation between employers and employees minimised job losses,” the report says.
Key research findings
Today, 91% of employers offer at least one form of flexible working arrangement to their employees.
Almost 60% of employees stated they currently used a form of flexible working and 83% of requests for flexible working are approved.
81% of employers did not expect that their organisation would extend flexible working in the next two years.
Of the firms that currently do not offer any form of flexible working arrangement, 92% said they were unlikely to start offering it in the next two years.
Half of firms with fewer than 50 employees said they granted less than one in four flexible working requests.
60% of employees did not know who was covered by the legal right to request.
Men were less than half as likely to use flexible working in order to “look after children” than women and 86% of men said they would not use a longer period of paternity leave if it was offered to them.
A final word
“It is not sufficient, nor is it likely to be wholly effective, simply to legislate on the bare minimum that employers must do. We must also provide employers with the guidance to make flexibility work for their employees, give recognition and support when they get it right, and join the vanguard and the correct infrastructure to ensure that flexibility is not burdensome for business. Our recommendations aim to advance a maximal agenda of workplace flexibility, to make flexible working practices a more prominent indicator of corporate social responsibility and to enable men and women to share more equally in their caring and social obligations.” - Dan Leighton and Thomas Gregory, report authors.
Want to know more?
Title: Reinventing the Workplace, by Dan Leighton and Thomas Gregory, Demos, July 2011.
Availability: You can download the 136-page report in PDF format, free of charge, at www.demos.co.uk/publications/reinventingtheworkplace.
Demos describes itself as “a think-tank focused on power and politics. Our unique approach challenges the traditional, 'ivory tower' model of policy making by giving a voice to people and communities. We work together with the groups and individuals who are the focus of our research, including them in citizens’ juries, deliberative workshops, focus groups and ethnographic research.” For more information visit www.demos.co.uk.
--> “Care fund proposed to pay for paternity leave”, by Graham Snowdon, guardian.co.uk, 19 July 2011.
Think-tank Demos says a care-contribution system could be implemented to encourage more fathers to take parental leave: www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/jul/19/care-fund-paternity-leave.