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London flexicurity seminar 

As part of the 'Restructuring in the Public Sector: a flexicurity approach' project, NHS Employers and UNISON jointly hosted a seminar in London on the 13 and 14 November 2008.

The seminar examined how flexicurity principles are being applied in the British public sector and particularly in the NHS.

The seminar was opened by Professor Ton Wilthagen of the University of Tilburg who outlined the eight common principles of flexicurity:

  • More and better jobs - the modernisation of labour markets and promotion of good work through new forms of flexibility and security. This will aim to increase adaptability, employment and social cohesion.
  • The deliberate combination of flexible and reliable contractual arrangements, comprehensive lifelong learning strategies, effective active labour market policies with modern, adequate and sustainable social protection systems.
  • Flexicurity approaches are not about one single labour market, working life model or a single policy strategy.
  • Flexicurity approaches should be tailored to the specific circumstances of each Member State and each Member State should develop its own flexicurity arrangements.
  • The promotion of open, responsive and inclusive labour markets which aim to overcome segmentation. There should be support for all those in employment to remain employable, to help them progress and to manage transitions when both in work and between jobs.
  • Internal and external flexicurity are equally important and should be promoted.
  • Support gender equality by promoting equal access to quality employment for women and men and by offering measures to reconcile work, family and private life.
  • Flexicurity requires a climate of trust and dialogue among all stakeholders, where all are prepared to take the responsibility for change with a view to socially balanced policies.
  • Flexicurity requires a cost effective allocation of resources and should remain compatible with financially sustainable public budgets. It should also aim at a fair distribution of costs and benefits, especially between businesses, public authorities and individuals, with particular attention to the specific situation of small and medium size enterprises.

Professor Wilthagen outlined some of the challenges that flexicurity faces in the UK. These include improving productivity in the UK economy and enhancing basic and intermediate skills. Professor Wilthagen closed his presentation by stating that if designed properly, flexicurity has the potential to put the idea of a European Social Model in to practice.

Seminar content

Christine Durance, Head of policy development at UNISON, examined how flexicurity has been, or is being applied in the UK public sector and gave an overview of employment in the public services in the UK. This included details of contractual arrangements, active labour market policies such as the New Deal and Job CentrePlus and the impact they've had.

Sian Thomas, Director at NHS Employers, highlighted some of the current issues in the health sector and how flexicurity has been adapted for the NHS. NHS policies of organisational change, the temporary workforce strategy and NHS Professionals, NHS Jobs (the e-recruitment service for the NHS) and the reorganisation of healthcare in London were all given as examples of initiatives that contained elements of flexicurity. These were all large initiatives where elements of flexicurity were important to the success of the projects.

Wendy Reid, National Clinical Lead for Hospital at Night explained how Hospital at Night operated and how flexibility was needed in order for the NHS to meet the requirements of the Working Time Directive. The requirement to work and learn within a shorter period has required flexibility from the NHS in terms of team working, expanded roles for staff (such as Allied Health Professionals), improved efficiency and productivity.

David Amos, Director of Workforce at University College of London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), examined how flexicurity had been used at UCLH during a period of change that included the opening of a major new site. UCLH offered staff security of employment during the period of change in exchange for flexibilities from the workforce. This extremely successful policy was undertaken with the co-operation of the trade unions and fitted the model of flexicurity well.


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Corrin Shepherd
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