It’s the economy, stupid!

I am doubtful of the wisdom of quoting Bill Clinton’s successful strap line in his 1992 campaign to unseat George Bush Snr but I have to pinch myself when I read that a Conservative-led government is introducing so-called flexible working rules that will strangle many small businesses.  

The Deputy Prime Minister has today announced a new right for mothers to share their maternity leave with their partners while all workers will have the right to flexible working hours.   At a time when our economy is fragile; when it is starting to grow but slowly; when businesses have huge amounts of cash which they do not have the confidence to invest, I am stunned that a Conservative government can contemplate imposing more burdens on British businesses.

Imagine Sam Sage who runs a plumbing business and who has two employees – a plumber’s mate called Jason Pipe and a secretary/bookkeeper called Sharon Totup.  Assume Jason is married to a pregnant merchant banker while also-pregnant Sharon is shacked-up with a premier division footballer.  It seems pretty obvious that Jason will opt to take paternity leave while his wife continues to earn big bucks from the bank while Sharon will look to her footballing bloke to bring home the bacon and will opt for her maternity leave.   Poor old Sam Sage is stuffed and will have to manage without his mate and without his secretary/bookkeeper.  When Jason and Sharon exercise their right to return to work, they will no doubt request flexible working hours that turn Sam Sage’s business into a total nightmare.

Flexible working and flexible maternity/paternity leave may be manageable in large organisations – just – but they will be a nightmare for smaller businesses that rely on strong team working.

Oxfordshire’s economy comprises a large public sector (local government, health, academie and military) and a private sector that is dominated by small and medium-sized businesses.

Who is unhappy with the introduction of flexible working?  The CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Who has welcomed the introduction of flexible working:  The TUC!

I rest my case.

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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