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If only Dawn Butler understood the concept of costs

Summary:
We’d like people to be able to choose their working hours, of course we would. As, obviously, people currently can - we know of no conscription system insisting that all must work particular times. The choice is, largely enough, made at the time the job is chosen rather than within the job but that’s still a choice.This does not mean that insisting that all can request flexible working is going to work. Especially not when those proposing the idea manage to get it so badly wrong:A Labour government would give everyone the right to choose when they do and do not work from the day they are employed, its shadow women and equalities secretary will tell Labour’s women’s conference on Saturday.“Women do the vast majority of unpaid care, but this must not be a barrier to women in work,” Dawn

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We’d like people to be able to choose their working hours, of course we would. As, obviously, people currently can - we know of no conscription system insisting that all must work particular times. The choice is, largely enough, made at the time the job is chosen rather than within the job but that’s still a choice.

This does not mean that insisting that all can request flexible working is going to work. Especially not when those proposing the idea manage to get it so badly wrong:

A Labour government would give everyone the right to choose when they do and do not work from the day they are employed, its shadow women and equalities secretary will tell Labour’s women’s conference on Saturday.

“Women do the vast majority of unpaid care, but this must not be a barrier to women in work,” Dawn Butler will say. “That’s why I’m announcing Labour’s plans to introduce rights to flexible working from day one of employment.

“This change to the law is essential to closing the gender pay gap and dismantling the structural barriers that hold women back from promotion and progression.”

The granting of the right or not, OK. You know, political decision and all that. But it is necessary to get the effects of it right.

Whether employers should regard flexible working as a cost or not it’s true that they do. So, by adding flexible working - something we’re already saying that women are more likely to ask for - we’re adding to the perceived cost of employing women. This is going to reduce the gender pay gap in what manner? If overall costs of employing a group rise then the more visible, cash only part, of those costs are going to?

“Under Labour’s plans, no woman will be shut out of the workplace because they’re a mum or they care for a parent or a disabled loved one, or both. We need an economy that works for women, not against us.”

Again, entirely super, but is that what is going to happen? Italy, for example, has a low gender pay gap. On the grounds that mothers tend not to work at all. This being one of the things it’s necessary to grasp, this gender pay gap is calculated only for those in work. Those not working at all aren’t totted up. So, excluding those who would be on lower pay from the workforce diminishes the recorded gap.

Please do note here that we’re not arguing either way on the desirability of anything at all. We’re just trying to insist upon people grasping cause and effect. Adding to the costs of employing women with caring responsibilities will widen, not narrow, the gender pay gap.

Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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