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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 01:07 GMT
Flexible hours 'best job perk'
Mother with baby
Working parents want work-life balance
Job hunters would rather work flexible hours than get extra money, according to new research.

One in three of the 4,000 people questioned in an online survey said flexibility was more important to them than an extra 1,000 a year.

Increasingly people want more from work than the usual package

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt

Only 10% preferred a company car and 7% gym membership over the benefits of flexible working, in the government survey.

The research coincides with a campaign by the Department of Trade and Industry to highlight new "family friendly" employment rights due to come into force on 6 April.

From April four million parents with a child under 6 and 200,000 mothers and fathers with disabled children up to the age of 18 will be able to request more flexible working.

Employers will have to provide good business reasons to say no.

Long hours culture

In the DTI survey, 77% of parents with children under six said it was important to consider their work-life balance when choosing a new job.

Of those seeking manager and director level jobs, the figure was 74%.

We can use these new legal standards to go with the grain of change

Patricia Hewitt

More than 80% of workers said they had felt pressure to work longer hours even after they had finished for the day.

And 68% of those surveyed said they would like to be able to work flexi-time if the need arose.

The government campaign will seek to convince employers more flexible working hours need not cost more and may mean happier more productive workers, according to BBC family correspondent James Westhead.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said achieving a work-life balance was becoming increasingly important to workers.

On the agenda

Ms Hewitt told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the new law was designed "to get the subject on the agenda of every business".

"The sensible way to make progress on this is to get employees and employers sitting down and agreeing what is going to work for that individual employee in that job but also what is going to work for that business."

One worry is that the refusal of some requests could lead to an increase in employment tribunals

Federation of Small Businesses

She said the best businesses were already using flexible working policies to attract and retain people.

But the new legislation would help millions of working parents balance work and childcare and make sure all employers addressed the issue.

"We can use these new legal standards to go with the grain of change.

"If we are going to succeed in an increasingly difficult and competitive workplace environment then we need to make sure we're recruiting good people and keeping good people.

The Federation of Small Businesses said it was concerned the legislation could lead to disputes between employers and staff if requests for flexible working were turned down.

"We are not manning the barricades over this law, but we will be monitoring how it's used," a spokesman said.

"One worry is that the refusal of some requests could lead to an increase in employment tribunals."

James Reed of reed.co.uk, which carried out the study for the DTI, said the research was a "real wake-up call for employers".

An Acas helpline service on 08457474747 gives guidance about the new legislation.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's James Westhead
"For jobseekers flexible hours have become the top attraction"
  Patricia Hewitt, Trade and Industry Secretary
"We are trying to get the subject onto the agenda of every business"
  Katy Nicholson, Reed Consultancy
"It is something that people do want"
 VOTE RESULTS
Flexible working: Which would you prefer?

Cash
 39.94% 

Hours
 60.06% 

7230 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

02 Jan 03 | Business
09 Sep 01 | Business
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