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Flexible working could be good for black workers,says expert

POSITIVE OUTLOOK: Employment law partner Lorna Valcin

BLACK WORKERS could greatly benefit from government plans to allow employees more legal right to request flexible working patterns, a legal expert has said.

Lorna Valcin, employment law partner at Colemans-CTTS in Kingston, London, said the reforms would help ensure black workers get better work/life balance.

Among the reforms, which were announced by deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and expected by 2015, is allowing parents to take turns in maternity and paternity leave.

The changes are also expected to make it easier for extended family members to play a greater role in helping parents with childcare.

She told The Voice : “This announcement is welcome and encouraging news. According to a recent Office of National Statistics report, the biggest percentage of lone-parent households is among black ethnic groups - forty-eight per cent of black Caribbean families have one parent, as do 36 per cent of black African households.”

She added: “Therefore, (the) news will, it is hoped, relieve the burden on managing family life. Providing increased flexibility for all will mean that lone parents will be able to share childcare commitments with extended family and friends more easily.

“This would help to reduce child care costs considerably and mean that mothers are able to more easily return to work and get a better work-life balance when they do.”

The government said employers would not be forced to accept a flexible working request but would have to give a good reason for turning down requests.

While reforms have been welcomed, critics have raised concerns about how flexible working may impact worker’s incomes and affect the costs incurred by especially smaller businesses.

However, Valcin urged employers to keep an open mind and focus on potential benefits.

“Employers may, at first, be concerned about how they will manage flexible workers. However they must remain open minded to the potential benefits of such a change (with) the biggest benefit being to retain loyal, happier, staff,” she said.

“Often customers would like to see more flexible business operating hours and by allowing employees to work outside of the traditional 9-5, they will be able to meet this demand.”

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