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Want time off? Say after me, "Work life Balance"

Max Whitehead PO Box 334 087 Sunnynook Auckland 1309, Ph 0274 709 393 email max.w@whiteheadgroup.co.nz

Media Release
Wednesday December 6

Want time off? Say after me, "Work life Balance"

The phrase "Work life balance" sounds great and on the surface seems to make sense, but the concept has huge negative consequences for businesses.

Auckland employment expert, Max Whitehead says this latest Government-union brainchild will see New Zealand's productivity nose-dive.

"Big business will react by quietly making staff redundant and take their business offshore," he predicts. "The cost to the country of that will be huge."

MP Sue Kedgley's proposed Flexible Working Hours Bill means employees will be able to put their social needs ahead of their work commitments, and their employer will have difficulty refusing them.

"Most small businesses - which make up 95 percent of all New Zealand workplaces - and some larger ones already have an unofficial flexible working hours culture."

Max Whitehead cites the massive increase in part-time employee numbers, who are beginning to outnumber full-time employees, as evidence of this cultural shift.

"Small business owners realise that to retain their valuable staff in this low unemployment environment they have to allow staggered hours, extended paid and unpaid leave, and time off at short notice," he says.

He queries why the Government and unions are forcing this law on business.

"They think they are doing the right thing but these people have never run or even worked in a small business. They have not even had to balance a profit and loss account."

The Council of Trade Unions president Ross Wilson is reported as having said that the pressure to balance work and family life is a major problem for many workers. Surely it stands to reason then that any help workers can get has to be a good thing?

"Wrong," says Max Whitehead. "It may be so in a few unions, government departments or even larger businesses with 24/7 operations, but in general this is not correct.

"New Zealand is a country of small business owners co-operatively working alongside their employees, doing the hours that suits both parties. This law is totally unnecessary."

Labour Minister Ruth Dyson has released a paper arguing that work life balance will increase productivity, skill levels and living standards.

This, too, says Max Whitehead is rubbish. "Employers being forced to run their businesses around the social needs of their staff will face increased labour costs, loss of productivity and poor customer service. Telling an employer they must step aside when a employee wants to walk off the job will kill a lot of businesses and many jobs," he contends.

"Each person's circumstance is different and making one rule from Parliament to fit all is ridiculous."

He cites the example of the local school holding a sports day. The parents employed by nearby businesses take the day off to cheer their children on, causing their employers to sacrifice customer service, decrease output or try to find skilled temporary help. These businesses may be earning only just enough to employ their staff and events like this seriously erode their viability.

"This is when redundancies loom," says Max Whitehead.

While he believes the Bill should be dropped he says if the Government needs to progress it to pacify the unions then modifications should be made. He suggests that:
o Both employees and employers should be required to openly discuss and seriously consider each other's needs.
o For every hour an employee takes off during normal working hours they be required to make it up at a time that suits the employer and without such additional costs as overtime.
o Any mention of employers being forced to accept an employee's demand for time off be removed from the bill.


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