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Broad support for flexible working hours welcomed

6 November 2006

Broad support for flexible working hours welcomed

The launch of a broad-based coalition of more than 20 organisations campaigning for more flexible working hours is being welcomed by Green MP Sue Kedgley, whose private member's bill on the issue is currently before Parliament.

"It is great to see this level of support. The broad nature of this coalition indicates that quality flexible work is an idea whose time has come," Ms Kedgley says.

Ms Kedgley's Flexible Working Hours Bill is before the Transport and Industrial Relations committee and is due to have its third reading in Parliament in April 2007. Ms Kedgley is seeking to extend the provisions of the bill to apply to all employees.

"The rigid 40 hour week has become something of straitjacket in New Zealand, clogging our cities with congestion as we all race to get to work at the same time. It also causes unnecessary stress and inconvenience to families where parents are in the paid workforce, and prevents many older New Zealanders from working, as well as parents with young children and employees looking after elderly dependents.

"More flexibility in hours of work will bring numerous societal benefits. Not only will it make it easier for people to combine paid work and family responsibilities, it will also benefit employers. Research shows that flexible employment practices increase morale and productivity and reduce absenteeism, stress-related illness and staff turnover. Flexible working practices will also encourage creative, collaborative, results-driven workplaces, where employees feel trusted and respected rather than watched over and micro-managed.

"Greater flexibility in working hours also has the benefit of easing congestion on roads and public transport as fewer people will be rushing to get to work at the same time. It would benefit taxpayers as it would reduce the demand for spending billions on further major roading projects," Ms Kedgley says.

Ms Kedgley's bill provides employees with a statutory right to request flexible working arrangements, and creates a statutory duty for employers to consider such requests seriously. It is based on UK legislation, which has been extremely successful in helping change the working culture. Flexible working could mean staggered start and finish times, a compressed working week, part-time employment or extended holiday time in return for reduced wages.

"The Green Party recognises that not all workplaces can introduce flexible arrangements, and the bill gives employers grounds for turning down an employee request. However, in the UK, 90 percent of employee requests have been successfully negotiated," Ms Kedgley says.


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