HC Deb 13 June 2002 vol 386 c1388W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent measures the Government have taken to assist small businesses in offering more flexible hours; and what plans the Government have to ensure that businesses offer flexible hours to all employees. [61149]

Alan Johnson

We are committed to delivering our campaign to promote flexible working in small as well as large businesses. We are working with all businesses to convince them of the business benefits for flexible working, and we are at the same time providing advice on how they can develop flexible working approaches. This includes:

Providing from April 2003, parents of children aged under six and disabled children aged under 18 with a right to request to work flexibly and placing a duty on employers to consider requests seriously. This important new right has been specifically designed to take account of the needs of small business and will be accompanied by a package of support for both employers and employees, including tailored guidance for small businesses.

Helping to tackle the long hours culture in the UK, through an International Study Tour, which will share best practice on how best small as well as large companies maintain or improve productivity whilst tackling the issue of long hours.

Targeting and supporting specific sectors, including small businesses, to facilitate real change in those sectors where there is little experience of flexible working.

Providing support and guidance to employers who want to adopt flexible working but do not know how, through the Challenge Funds, and disseminating the emerging best practice. Our successful Challenge Fund programme, £10.5 million over three years (2000–03) aims to raise employers' awareness of the business benefits of policies and practices that help employees achieve a better balance between work and the rest of their lives. 166 companies, including small businesses, have already received support through the fund, and we have recently announced another round of successful projects, bringing the total number of companies to benefit from this fund to 399.