Monday, July 30, 2007

Pleasing changes

The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has finally reported back [PDF] on Sue Kedgley's Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill. The bill would give workers the right to request flexible working hours in order to care for dependent children; this was considered too daring for Labour, and so it was buried in committee for a year to allow officials to examine existing practices. But now the committee has finally completed its report, and recommended that the bill be passed, though with amendments. Unlike the amendments to Sue Bradford's Minimum Wage (Abolition of Age Discrimination) Amendment Bill (which basically gutted it), these amendments have strengthened the bill. Instead of applying only to flexible working hours, the bill would allow for flexible working arrangements, including work from home. The criteria which allow flexible arrangements to be requested have been broadened to include care for dependent relatives. Refusals are now appealed in the first instance to a labour inspector for mediation, rather than directly to the Employment Court. On the potentially negative side, requests must now specify how the variation in arrangements will help the employee better care for their dependent, and give an ide aof how long they will be needed for, while the grounds for refusal have been extended. But these changes don't seem unreasonable, and seem to be modelled on UK law. As someone who submitted on the bill, I'm quite pleased with the outcome.

Because of the large number of Member's Bills currently facing their Second Reading, the bill likely won't be heard until September.