Blair promotes new workplace flexibility

British workplaces need to promote flexibility for the benefit of employers and employees, the prime minister has argued.

In a lecture today, Tony Blair outlined his vision of “flexi-Britain”, wherein workers adapt to the demands of employers and in return businesses are responsive to the needs of employees.

Delivering his seventh Our Nation’s Future lecture, Mr Blair said employees must adapt quickly to the needs of bosses to keep the “knowledge economy” growing. In return, bosses must offer family-friendly hours and workplace rights.

Mr Blair told his audience at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry the role of government should not be to interfere with the flexibility employer’s need, but focus on encouraging and improving skills and education and introducing reforms to protect workers’ rights.

“The modern world of work is defined by flexibility,” Mr Blair said. “But, in the 1980s, flexibility was a term that was owned by the political right.”

The prime minister continued: “It was the demand that employers made, to be released from regulation, to make hiring and firing easier… We saw that you could have a flexible labour market and a flexible labour force.

“In the knowledge economy, the role of government is to ensure that the economy is flexible, to the benefit of all rather than at the cost of the workforce.”

People are no longer “cogs in the machine” but “individual turners of the wheel”, Mr Blair said.

Moreover, the prime minister argued people need to rethink their perception of ‘flexible working’. A work-life balance should not mean people split their life between work and life, he argued, but rather work should be a fulfilling part of people’s lives.

“Today’s generation want more than a job”, he said. Government should help them to achieve ambition, with policies on skills and training as well as opening up aspiration for all children, Mr Blair argued.

Additionally the prime minister outlined a number of proposals to ‘up skill’ the adult population.

Our Nation’s Future sees Mr Blair outlining his vision for the future of government and the UK as he prepares to stand down as Labour leader and prime minister.

Past topics have included criminal justice, public health, social exclusion, science, community cohesion and defence.