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Rush hour flexible working idea dismissed by business group

The suggestion that all workers should be given the right to flexible working to avoid rush hour traffic has been dismissed as 'nonsensical' by the Forum of Private Business (FPB).

Liberal Democrat business minister Jo Swinson told a select committee inquiry into women in the workplace that employees should be able to request the right to come into work at earlier or later times to avoid peak time travel.

Under Government plans, all employees with at least six months service will be given the right to request flexible working by 2014, with Swinson calling for this to be extended to allow rush hour traffic avoidance.

Swinson told the House of Commons that there was often resentment in the workplace that particular groups were given the right to request flexible working.

Conservative MP and culture secretary Maria Miller, also giving evidence at the inquiry, cited the Netherlands as an example where employees leave at earlier times but continue to work from home.

However, the FPB said the suggestion would leave small businesses struggling with additional administration, longer opening hours and higher office running costs.

"Small businesses shouldn't have administrative complexities thrust upon them because our roads are congested and often poorly maintained, the rail network is bursting at the seams and lacking adequate rolling stock," said the FPB's head of policy Alex Jackman.

"Then there's key holder responsibility issues, monitoring time keeping would be a job in itself, and crucial to any business is the ability of employees to communicate with ease and consistency," he added.

"Wildly different working hours would also make business-to-business communication much more difficult."

The FPB has been particularly critical of extensions to workers' rights that place greater pressure on small business owners. It has asked to meet with Jo Swinson to discuss the matter further.