Committee to Consider New Flexible Working Arrangements

Synopsis: The Committee for Employment and Learning has begun its consideration of the Work and Families Bill, which seeks to introduce new flexible arrangements for the workplace.

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 13 May 2014

Reference: E&L 07/13/14

The Committee for Employment and Learning has begun its consideration of the Work and Families Bill, which seeks to introduce new flexible arrangements for the workplace.

The Bill will allow for leave and pay entitlement to be shared between both parents following the birth or adoption of a child, and will allow for flexibility in how that leave can be taken. It also proposes to extend the existing right to request flexible working to all employees with an appropriate length of service, and will provide for measures around pay for adoptive and foster parents.

Commenting on the Bill, Committee Chairperson, Robin Swann MLA said: "The Committee is all too aware that, as the needs of the modern workforce change and evolve, so too must workplace arrangements. Now more than ever, striking an appropriate work/life balance is a priority for workers. Nowadays, so many households have two working parents, so parents will want to be able to share parental leave and pay in a way that suits their particular family's needs. The proposed legislation also recognises the increasing demand from all workers for more flexible working patterns, such as an opportunity for home working and flexible hours."

Mr Swann continued: "However, we must be mindful that, while increased flexibility can lead to a happier, more motivated workforce, it can also place additional pressures on employers, particularly small and medium-sized employers. During our consideration, we will want to consider how employers will cope with demands for more flexible working patterns and with any new arrangements for parental leave. As with all things, a balance must be struck."

Mr Swann concluded: "This Bill proposes to bring about some important changes to the working lives of people in Northern Ireland, and we welcome the focus on the need to balance work life with family life. The Committee will conduct a thorough examination of all the proposals to ensure that our workplace legislation properly reflects the times we live in while recognising the current economic climate and the difficulties facing businesses. We look forward to hearing from a range of organisations in the months ahead."

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