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Flexible working hours should be for all

Human Rights Commission
Media Release
2 March 2006

Flexible working hours should be available for all

The right to request flexible working hours should be available to all men and women who want to balance work and family interests and not just a limited number, said EEO Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor.

Dr McGregor said that proposed legislation which gives parents the right to ask for a change of work hours is too narrowly focused.

“Currently only parents of children under five and parents of disabled children under 18 are covered by the Bill. But what about parents of primary-school age children or dependent adult disabled children, or workers who care for their elderly parents? Their need for flexible arrangements can be just as great.”

Dr McGregor was presenting the Human Rights Commission submission on the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee.

“The Human Rights Commission supports a comprehensive and integrated approach to flexible working arrangements. Any statutory framework should take in account all dependent children and members of the immediate family,” she said.

Dr McGregor acknowledged that the Bill raised a number of issues for employers, especially small business operators who had raised concerns about regulation and the potential cost of compliance.

New research conducted by Massey University, however, shows that a shortage of skilled labour is inhibiting small business growth in New Zealand and that some small business operators see flexible works hours as an important tool to retain staff.

“Re-organising the work culture is not just an issue for big business. Small business is a significant part of New Zealand’s economy and we need to make sure their views are heard and built into long-term solutions,” Dr McGregor said.

“The business benefits of flexible working hours are clear: decreased staff turnover, retention of skills, reduced absenteeism and increased job satisfaction. This adds up to a bottom line of improved workplace productivity, safety and increased morale.”

The EEO Commissioner said there was a need to research the potential negative career consequences for those who choose to work part time or flexible hours, particularly women, as well as develop workplace strategies that better recognise men with family caring responsibilities.

The Commission’s submission is available at www.hrc.co.nz.

ENDS

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