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Flexible Hours Essential for Caring Round Clock

16 February 2006

Flexible Working Hours Essential for Women Workers Caring Around the Clock

“Initiatives like the Flexible Working Hours Bill are vital to attracting women workers into the health workforce,” New Zealand Nurses Organisation spokesperson Rob Haultain told the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee today.

“Our members are nurses, midwives and care assistants, facing particular issues created by juggling shift work and family responsibilities. For some it is just too hard,”she said.

Rob Haultain said NZNO strongly backed the Bill which would enable workers to request flexible hours.

Across the health sector there are massive recruitment and retention problems and the average age of nurses is around 47. High turnover of nurses is placing a severe strain on the health system at a time when demand for skilled, experienced nurses is growing.

Rob Haultain said around 30% of nurses with annual practicing certificates were not actively nursing.

“We need to look at what would attract these nurses back to nursing and for many who care around the clock having flexible working hours is a key factor,” she said.

The introduction of flexible working hours legislation in New Zealand would extend the right, presently enjoyed by a minority of nurses with strong individual bargaining power and sympathetic employers, to all nurses and health workers.

“Maori health workers have particular needs in relation to meeting family obligations, for example whaangai adoption,” she said. “I hope the Bill will support these workers to meet their obligations and remain in the workforce.”

Rob Haultain said a significant part of NZNO’s work was supporting members who were assured by their employers before taking parental leave that they would have flexibility on return to work, only to come back and find that no acknowledgement of the arrangement.

ENDS

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