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More flexible working hours to parents

17 March 2005

Bill will give more flexible working hours to parents

A new Private Member’s Bill, selected from the Parliamentary ballot this morning, will make life easier for working parents, the Green Party says.

“There’s a lot of talk about work-life balance and the strains on working parents,” Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley, who drafted the Bill, said. “This Bill is a practical way of making life a little easier for parents of young children who work in paid employment.”

“The intention of the Bill is to change the workplace culture so that employers accommodate and respect the need of parents with young children to work more flexible hours that suit family life.”

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill would guarantee that parents could work flexibly or part-time, without financial penalty, while their children are under five.

Ms Kedgley said the Bill is based on UK legislation, passed by the Blair Government, which had been extremely successful in changing the work culture and employer’s attitudes towards allowing their workers more flexible working arrangements

“The pressure of trying to work full-time and care for young children at the same time is putting a huge strain on parents and young children. It is in everyone’s interests that we help parents with young children to live more balanced lives.”

Ms Kedgley said her Bill would give employees with young children the right to request reduced, part-time or flexible hours. Employers would have a legal duty to consider any such requests seriously, and must be able to demonstrate good reasons for a refusal.

“It will not only make life better and more enriching for parents and children, but will also benefit employers. 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.”

“The bill will establish a framework in which employers and employees can negotiate reduced working hours. An employee will make a request in writing, setting out the working patterns they want and how it could be made to work. Employers will have to undertake a formal business assessment of how such flexible working could be achieved.

“If an employer turns down a request, their decision can be challenged through an appeals procedure. Where cases cannot be resolved in the workplace, binding mediation and arbitration will be available, as will the opportunity for an employee to take a case to the Employment Tribunal.

“Hopefully, recourse to mediation and arbitration will be rare because the Bill will benefit businesses as well as parents.”


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