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Celebrating International Women's Day

Celebrating International Women's Day Greater flexibility in Bill for working parents

A Bill making working life easier and more bearable for working parents of young and disabled children has been drawn up by Green Party MP and Women's spokesperson Sue Kedgley.

"The pressure of trying to work fulltime and care for young children at the same time is putting a huge strain on families and young children," Ms Kedgley said. "It is in everyone's interests that we help parents with young or disabled children to live more balanced lives.

"My Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill will give employees with young and dependent children the right to request reduced, part-time or flexible hours. Employers will have a legal duty to consider any such request seriously, and must be able to demonstrate good reasons for a refusal."

The Bill will apply to parents of children aged under five, and parents of disabled children aged up to 18.

"It will not only make life better and more enriching for parents and children, but will also benefit employers," Ms Kedgley said. "Overseas studies show that family-friendly strategies in the workplace reduce staff turnover and recruitment costs. They also reduce absentee rates, and improve morale, employee loyalty and workplace productivity. Greater flexibility will enable parents who would otherwise leave the labour market to remain in employment after their parental leave."

Ms Kedgley said the announcement was timely, as today [8 March] is International Women's Day. "Women in particular are often the main caregivers of children, and are frequently burdened with the stress of doing both paid work and the bulk of the domestic labour," she said.

Under the Bill, employees who have worked for the same employer for at least six months may apply to work reduced or flexible hours. They will make their requests in writing, setting out the working patterns they want, and showing how it could be made to work. Employers will have to undertake a formal business assessment of how such flexible working could be achieved.

"Where cases can't be resolved in the workplace, binding mediation and arbitration will be available, as will the opportunity for an employee to go to the Employment Tribunal. However, hopefully recourse to mediation and arbitration will be rare, as this Bill really provides a win-win scenario," Ms Kedgley said.

The Bill is currently awaiting selection from the private member's ballot. It is based on successful legislation which comes into effect next month in the United Kingdom.

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