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A step forward for families

21 November 2007

A step forward for families

The Families Commission says Parliament’s passing of the flexible working hours amendment act is a major step toward improving the work life balance of Kiwi families.

“The Commission’s consultation and discussions with more than 3,000 families over the past few years shows many struggle to get a good balance between their work and family life - without it impacting on their income. They want more choices around flexible working arrangements, with their top choice being more freedom over the time they start and finish work,” said the Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission, Rajen Prasad.

He says New Zealand is at a point where employers are increasingly responsive to calls for workplaces that are family-friendly and this pays off with staff loyalty and job satisfaction. However he says providing flexible work is just one of a suite of measures that will help make work places more family friendly and improve work life balance.

“We must show that we value the role of parents and back them up by providing a more supportive environment.
“For instance, we would like to see paid parental leave extended so that more leave is made available to more people and paid it at a higher rate. We also need to continue to extend and improve out of school childcare services.”

Dr Prasad says the family-friendly workplaces are needed not just by families with children. As the proportion of younger workers continues to decline in coming years it will be important for employers to retain older staff – and as they transition to retirement they will be looking for flexible work options, he said.

Many people also care for their elderly parents or other members of the family, and flexible work arrangements can make their lives a lot easier to manage, he said.

More also needs to be known about what flexible work options best suit families. There is sometimes a poor take up of these types of arrangements and the Families Commission has begun research on this issue. It will look at barriers such as workplace culture, poor communication of the options and other obstacles. The study will also look at what works best for families and what measures would encourage people to make the most of their opportunities for flexible work.


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