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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Transforming Work

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

At a conference organised by the Equal Opportunities Commission to launch their new report ‘Working outside the box’ Meg gave the following remarks. For details of the report visit: http://www.eoc.org.uk/Default.aspx?page=19903


Alistair Darling has outlined the substantial progress already made on the issue of flexibility at work. Part of that progress has been the growing acceptance, growing demand from people that they can change how they do their jobs. Interestingly this has been amongst both women and men.


However, the findings of this investigation reinforce what we already know - that we need to continue to push forward. We need further change in people’s expectations of how they can shape their work and non-work activity, further change in the attitude of employers as to how they can achieve a better motivated and more productive workforce.


The Report again tells us that millions of people in Britain have untapped skills, that they could be using their skills more fully. In addition, we have about 35% of people not currently working who could be encouraged back into work, if more flexible working were easily available.  


In particular, we know that this under-use of skills is an issue for women.  Research has found that over 50% of women working part time do not use their skills to the fullest. Increasing the availability of quality part-work is one of the key elements in the Government Action Plan which followed up the Women and Work Commission recommendations. We have a £500,000 initiative to support projects designed to increase the number of senior and quality jobs available part-time, and will make an announcement on how this will work in the coming weeks.


We hope to bring forward projects which will show that it is possible to re-design jobs, and re-organise work at senior levels; that management, technical and executive roles can be done part time. We will demonstrate that there are substantial business benefits, in terms of retention and recruitment, in making these changes, in particular from women returning after maternity leave.


You have probably got tired of hearing about the ‘new economy’ and the changes that it will bring. However I think one of the exciting changes we should be aware of and making more of, is the effect this will have on women’s jobs. Women will occupy a significant proportion of the new jobs that will be created, new jobs that in this country will need to be high skilled and high paid.


I get to hear about many examples of good practice by employers, and it was encouraging to see some more of these in this Report.  In the Government Action Plan we said we would recruit a set of “exemplar employers”, in partnership with Opportunity Now. We now have over 100 signed up, and we hope to launch these soon to an unsuspecting public.


We are planning some events to engage employers and help the exchange of best practice. I think it makes a stronger case when an employer finds out that your competitors or clients are making changes to how their workforce are organised, and reaping benefits.  


A number of the initiatives we are signing up are concerned with flexible working, but others cover a range of issues tackling the barriers women face in advancement at work. This is very much the approach we have taken in co-ordinating policy across Government - education and careers guidance for girls, supporting women returners, career development and training for women in work. 


Having said that, as I mentioned earlier, men increasingly want to be part of a workforce, of a society, that values them more than as simply cogs in a machine. The Report’s analysis is that all workers will seek more flexibility at work in greater and greater numbers. We have to get the simple truth out, that people at work will do their job better, use their skills to a greater extent, if they feel appreciated and valued by their employer. They are also happier, which can’t be a bad thing.

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