Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 24th March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Labour, Streatham 5:28 pm, 24th March 2011

I agree, and my hon. Friend’s comments bring me neatly to the topic of the Business Secretary’s document, “The Plan for Growth.”

Aside from the two observations that I wanted to make, I want in particular to comment on the document’s proposal to scrap the planned extension of the right to request flexible working to parents of 17-year-olds. That has been cited as a way to ease the burdens of employment regulation on business. “The Plan for Growth” says the administrative burden of extending that flexible working will cost about £500,000. That figure is taken from the Government’s own impact assessment of the measure, published in October last year.

Although “The Plan for Growth” mentions the £500,000 figure, it does not tell the whole story. The assessment agrees that there are additional procedural costs to business in extending the right to request flexible working, which it quantifies as £1.3 million, including the administrative costs I have just mentioned. In addition, there is a £975,000 cost in making adjustments to working patterns. However, that is far outweighed by the savings to business, which are listed in the Government’s impact assessment: £1.1 million from higher productivity, £1.2 million from lower labour turnover and £63,000 from reduced absenteeism, totalling £2.4 million in the first year. Overall, the “net present value” of introducing the measure—the benefit to business—would be £41.2 million. Again that is not my figure, but the Government’s. Therefore, on pure cost grounds, I do not understand how that decision makes any sense.

It is a shame that the Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs is not here, because he signed off the impact assessment with the following statement:

“I have read the Impact Assessment and I am satisfied that…it represents a fair and reasonable view of the expected costs, benefits and impact of the policy, and…the benefits justify the costs”.

Never mind the costs of the measure, because there are some things in society that we do not price up and put a market value on—one is the time we spend with our family. That is presumably why the Prime Minister said on 22 January 2010 that he intended to head up the

“most family friendly Government we’ve ever had” and why, in the lead-up to the general election, the Deputy Prime Minister said:

“We are not casual about the pressure that many parents feel”.

The impact assessment is clear, because under the heading “key non-monetised benefits”, it says that the measure will improve health and well-being, help employees achieve a better work-life balance and help improve family life. For me and my constituents, that is incredibly important, because we face a problem whereby a minority of our young people are engaging in serious violence. A number of stabbings and shootings are taking place in my constituency almost every month. There are many reasons for that, and there is no one magic solution to resolving these issues, but I am clear that we need to help adults spend more time with their families. Extending the right to request flexible working to parents of 17-year-olds—teenagers in that key group—is essential to helping them provide the guidance that many young people need in my community.