David Cameron spoke at the Tate Modern this morning to mark the launch of the Equal Opportunities Commission’s report on flexible working. The EOC has coined terms for four models of work it would like to see more of:
- Timelords – work from any location at a timing of their choice
- Shift-shapers – fixed location and timing, but flexibility in shifts
- Time-stretchers – time flexibility but location dependent on customers/technology
- Remote-controllers – virtually the same as time-stretchers
Cameron fully accepted the report, the only caveat was that obviously not all jobs were suited to it such as teachers and firemen. He said it wasn’t a fluffy issue but a hard-headed response to changing realities that Britain should be trail-blazing. He emphasised that it shouldn’t be something imposed on business, but a "powerful tool deployed by business".
Describing the different forms of flexible working, he listed
flexitime, home-working, part-time working, term-time working,
job-sharing, mobile working, compressed hours, annual hours and career
He warned that in a tight labour market companies were "cutting themselves off from vast pools of talent" by deterring women and older people with rigid thinking and practices. One of his most interesting points was that increased flexibility would increase workers’ productivity and motivation, cutting down on the clock-watching, absenteeism and presenteeism in strict 9-5 workplaces.
Giving the macroeconomic case, he said we needed to nurture our every resource to compete with India (which has more English-speaking graduates than we have people) and China, which means getting some of those who are elderly but able as well as some of the 2.7million people on incapacity benefit into some kind of flexible working.
In terms of social benefits, he mentioned reduced stress on families, and the environmental and health benefits of more people working from home.
He concluded by showing how the party was being the change in this respect, by introducing core-hours, the right to request (which he believes should be extended to all parents in the country), and more home-working for all of its employees.