Friday, March 23, 2007

Government a bit unsure about homeworking

The always active Association of British Drivers has recently been petitioning the Prime Minister via his web site. Here's what they said:"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reduce the need for office-based workers to commute to work each day. Millions of unnecessary daily journeys to work could be eliminated through effective use of broadband technologies, virtual private networks, home working and also flexible working hours. Both employers and employees could be given tax incentives to reduce or eliminate commuting."

Here's the reply: "The Government is keen to encourage flexible working (working at the most suitable time and place for the task, rather than teleconferencing) but recognises that it is for companies and individuals to work out how best to deliver this. The Department for Transport, through the Smarter Choices programme, encourages employers to develop workplace travel plans, aimed at reducing car use for travel to work and for travel to business. A plan is typically a package of practical measures to encourage staff to choose alternatives to single-occupancy car use and to reduce the need to travel at all for their work, including teleconferencing and teleworking where appropriate.

"Although we are keen to encourage people in this way, we recognise that not all jobs are amenable to teleworking; personal service occupations such as restaurant waiting staff, for example. Direct incentives to those who are in a position to telework might therefore be an incentive to the favoured minority, given that personal service workers tend to be at the lower end of the earnings spectrum. Similarly not all homes are suitable for use as personal office space and, again it will tend to be those at the end of the earnings spectrum who live in the least suitable properties. Any encouragement of teleworking also needs to ensure that, in removing commuting journeys from peoples' lives, it does not contribute in the long term to urban sprawl, as people choose to live further from town or city centres. There are tax incentives to encourage employees to take up sustainable travel plans but these do not currently include teleworking."

ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries commented:"The government has previously used scaremongering claims about congestion increasing to justify road pricing, and insisted that doing nothing is not an option. Yet when an option other than road pricing is put forward, the government effectively rejects it. Their claimed desire to reduce congestion is clearly a sham.

"Pointing out that restaurant waiting staff can't work from home is just inane blathering. The fact remains that many people can work from home, and should be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, some employers still have a reluctance to allow staff to work from home despite the obvious cost savings in terms of office space, and the saving in commuting time providing better quality of life to their employees. It is thus necessary for the government to provide some incentive to both employers and employees to encourage teleworking.

If all office staff able to work from home were to do so just one day per week, congestion would be vastly reduced in all urban areas. Clearly the government does not want this to happen, as it would remove their argument for road pricing overnight."

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