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New law allows employees to vary working hours

22 November 2007

New law allows employees to vary working hours

Workers have a new right giving them more say over the hours they work, with last night's passage of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Arrangements) Act, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley said today.

The bill, sponsored by Ms Kedgley, gives employees with caring responsibilities the right to seek to vary their hours or place of work, and imposes a legal duty on employers to try to accommodate any such request.

Ms Kedgley said her bill also sets up a legal framework to negotiate flexible working hours.

"Parents, guardians, grandparents or people looking after an adult dependent will be able to apply to vary the hours they work, or the times and days they work.

"They can apply to work part time, or work reduced or 'compressed' hours. Some may opt for a four day week, others to work only during school term times.

"Some may just want flexibility about when to start and end a working day."

Ms Kedgley said most European countries provide employees with a legal right to request more flexible working arrangements or to reduce their working hours. "In New Zealand, however, flexible working arrangements are still looked upon as a favour, rather than as a legitimate and productive working arrangement," Ms Kedgley said. "The new law seeks to change this and encourage much greater workplace flexibility.

"I hope that as a result of this new law, our working culture of inflexible, long working hours will become a thing of the past and flexible workplaces will become the norm," Ms Kedgley said.

Ms Kedgley said research shows that when employees have more control over their working hours they are likely to be more motivated and productive, and that there will be less absenteeism, staff turnover, and stress related illness.

In the United Kingdom businesses had initially opposed a similar employment right, but most now supported it, she said.

Ms Kedgley said she hoped the new right would be extended to all employees when the legislation was reviewed in two years time.


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