Rishi mocks Labour plans to stop bosses from contacting staff outside office hours – and to enshrine in law the right to work from home
- PM joked that ‘Labour wouldn’t even work weekends for the British public’
- Leading business figures warned measures would damage struggling economy
Rishi Sunak last night led a chorus of criticism over Labour plans to stop bosses from contacting staff outside office hours – and to enshrine in law the right to work from home.
The Prime Minister told The Mail on Sunday that while he was ‘working night and day’ for the country, ‘Labour wouldn’t even work weekends for the British public’.
The measures – already being dubbed a ‘skivers’ charter’ – were condemned by leading business figures, who warned about the damage it would cause to an already struggling economy.
They are expected to form part of Labour’s election manifesto as a ‘new deal for working people’, which would also include more flexible hours.
The ‘right to switch off’ is based on legislation in France, where companies with more than 50 workers have been obliged since 2017 to set out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium have followed suit.
The measures – already being dubbed a ‘skivers’ charter’ – were condemned by leading business figures, who warned about the damage it would cause to an already struggling economy (File Photo)
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner told the Financial Times that ‘constant emails and calls outside of work should not be the norm’ because they are ‘harming the work-life balance for many’.
Last night, advertising tycoon Sir Martin Sorrell said: ‘I find it unbelievable. I guess this will result in another blow to British productivity. I guess they believe this appeals to Gen Z voters [those under 30], but I’m not sure it will appeal to the whole electorate. In a service business, 24/7 availability for clients is essential. Opportunities and problems in businesses such as ours don’t crop up conveniently during office hours.’
John Caudwell, founder of Phones 4U, said: ‘Not only is it frightening but with all the challenges that we’ve got in life, with wars and the cost-of-living crisis, it’s just so ridiculous. I can’t believe it. I don’t even know how it would work.
‘It is completely beyond common sense to me. It’s bizarre in the extreme. It’s woke gone mad and I’m completely puzzled by it. If Labour have got nothing better to do than dream up legislation like that which is utterly destructive to society, to me that would make them utterly unelectable.’
Pictured: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions, at the House of Commons in London, on May 10, 2023
Pictured: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with deputy leader Angela Rayner during their visit to Gillingham, Kent, on the eve of local elections polling day, on May 3, 2023
And writing in this newspaper, hotel tycoon Sir Rocco Forte called the plans ‘a skivers’ charter’ that will ‘cripple businesses’. Under Labour’s plans, companies would also be expected to offer flexible working – including working from home and staggered hours – as the default option from the first day of employment, ‘except where it is not reasonably feasible’.
It comes after Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the Treasury would be able to slash the basic rate of income tax by 2p if Britons who left jobs during the pandemic returned to work.
In his interview, Mr Sunak said: ‘Mel made an excellent point and the Chancellor in his Budget made the same point, which is we want to encourage people into work. Mel is working very hard to reform the system so that we can ensure that work always pays.’
Other policies being considered for the manifesto by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer include making it easier for workers to strike, a tax hike on private school fees and more onshore wind turbines.
Trade Minister Kevin Hollinrake said: ‘If ever we needed further proof that the Labour Party is anti-business and can never be trusted with the economy, this is it.’
SIR ROCCO FORTE: Labour’s plan to ban bosses calling staff at home amounts to a skivers’ charter and is precisely the sort of measure that will cripple businesses
BY SIR ROCCO FORTE, CHAIRMAN OF ROCCO FORTE HOTELS
News of a policy initiative by the Labour Party is never calculated to be good for my blood pressure but the latest one proposing to give workers the ‘right to switch off’ sent it off the scale.
My company runs 14 hotels and resorts scattered around five countries in multiple time zones, and so the idea that I and my staff could confine our interactions to a rigid set of working hours is absurd.
As someone who prides himself on being a good employer, I am not going to bother anyone unnecessarily, but if a situation requires input from a person out of the office then it is perfectly reasonable to contact them outside normal hours.
And I practise what I preach. I make myself available to my colleagues 24/7.
Sir Rocco Forte (pictured): News of a policy initiative by the Labour Party is never calculated to be good for my blood pressure but the latest one proposing to give workers the ‘right to switch off’ sent it off the scale
Pictured: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer making his speech to the Progressive Britain conference at Congress House on May 13, 2023
Sir Keir Starmer recently had the temerity to attack the Tory record on economic growth. But Labour’s proposal to ban bosses from contacting employees during their evenings, weekends and holidays, is precisely the sort of measure that will cripple businesses by reducing their productivity and making them less competitive.
One of the reasons I am a Brexiteer is because I detested the way the EU was strangling commerce in red tape.
But Sir Keir’s wish to enshrine in law a rule pioneered by the French, those lovers of the nanny state, would only make doing business harder, something the Gallic subsidiary of British pest-control firm Rentokil has learned to its cost.
In 2018, one of its workers was awarded €60,000 (£52,725) after the company was found to have failed to respect ‘le droit de la déconnexion’ (the right to disconnect).
Together with Labour’s proposal to make working from home a legal right, the right to switch off amounts to a skivers’ charter.
After all, it’s delusional to believe people at home work as diligently as those who turn up to the office. And what about those who can’t work from home, such as plumbers, drivers and my hotel chefs?
As politicians, Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner know only too well that the demands of the news cycle require them to make themselves freely available. Politicians can’t work 9 to 5, why should they expect the rest of us to?
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