Philip_hammondPicking up on a theme touched on in Cameron’s Google Zeitgeist speech, Philip Hammond, Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, has been talking about encouraging flexible working practices:

"Flexible working practice is a key element in the delivery of economic
competitiveness, social justice, affordability in public service
delivery and an improvement in General Well Being. Making work accessible will form a cornerstone of the next Conservative
Government’s programme for delivering its social, economic and
environmental objectives."

Like most policy announcements
in this part of the electoral cycle it is more visionary than practical, but Hammond did offer some indications of what he hoped would happen:

  • Less 9-to-5 and more flexi-time and job-sharing
  • More working from home
  • People will stay on the books for occasional work when retiring
  • Workers would be more freelance, having zero-hour contracts with several employers
  • The Government, as Britain’s biggest employer, would take a lead in promoting flexibility by "deregulating to permit it"

His main rationale is that conventional working practices are anachronistic when companies are increasingly interacting with competitive economies in different time zones, and that more flexible working will increase our human capital – "the natural resource of Britain". It will also increase productivity as workers will have "an enhanced working environment".

Hammond went on to say that writing off the 2.7 million people on incapacity benefit as completely
unemployable is a "terrible waste of human resource", and that Britain’s 5 million people on out-of-work benefits should help
plug the gaps in the labour market rather than economic migrants. Just as the job-for-life is a thing of a past, the line between employment and unemployment will be increasingly blurred.

Apart from anything else, it’s a welcome change to see a relatively low-profile member of the Shadow Cabinet being given the chance to make a significant speech on their brief rather than the leader.

Deputy Editor

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