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Struggle for work-life balance starts today

6 April 2005

Struggle for work-life balance starts today

A Green Private Member's Bill that will help parents have more flexible working hours is expected to be pass its first reading vote in Parliament this evening.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said the vote on the Bill, expected to be supported at its first reading by Government MPs, was timely given yesterday's launch of the Government's work-life balance resource for the state sector.

"We welcome the Government's efforts to ensure public servants enjoy a more balanced lifestyle," Ms Kedgley said. "However, legislative changes are essential to give teeth to these efforts and to ensure all parents can benefit from them, not just public servants."

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill would give employees with children under five 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.

"There's a lot of talk about work-life balance and the strains on working parents," Ms Kedgley 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 Bill is based on UK legislation, passed by the Blair Government, which had been extremely successful in changing the work culture and employers' attitudes towards allowing their workers more flexible working arrangements, Ms Kedgley said.

"The British legislation has worked very well. Nine out of 10 requests have been accepted, making life easier and more bearable for thousands of British parents."

The pressure of trying to work full-time and care for young children at the same time was putting a huge strain on parents and young children, Ms Kedgley said.

"It is in everyone's interests that we help parents with young children to live more balanced lives. 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."


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