Flexible hours bill set to pass

The Dominion Post 8 November 2007
Landmark legislation giving workers the right to ask for changes to their working hours is expected to pass by Christmas, as studies show we are turning into a nation of wage slaves. But there are fears it could pit workmate against workmate, with employers warning that workers with children or dependant adults will legally be entitled to go to the top of the queue for flexible working hours requests. They say the Flexible Working Arrangements Bill creates winners and losers in the workplace – and the losers will be singles or workers who might want more flexibility in their working hours for reasons other than caring for dependants.The bill gives workers the right to ask for changes to their working hours to care for small childrenor dependant relatives and creates a statutory requirement for employers to consider the request. Employers may reject the request on grounds including the burden of additional costs, problems meeting customer demand and the possibility of undermining a collective contract with staff – but they will have to defend their position to a labour inspector if the employee challenges the decision. Workers may then take their case to mediation or to the Employment Relations Authority. The maximum penalty faced by employers will be $2000.