Assembly debates benefits of flexible working

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The issue of flexible working in the public sector is being debated today in the Assembly.

The report from the Committee for Finance and Personnel is the result of their Inquiry on Flexible Working in the Public Sector in Northern Ireland and draws on international lessons and expert evidence on the benefits to the economy and society from flexible working.

Chairperson of the Committee, Daithí McKay MLA said: “Our Inquiry focussed on the benefits that can be realised from introducing more flexible working in the public sector. We are facing unprecedented financial challenges; the evidence in our Report points to significant savings if the public sector embraced a more flexible approach.

“Our public sector lags behind other jurisdictions in utilising the potential of new technology and modern workplace design to achieve efficiencies. For example, the traditional office is typically occupied approximately 45% of the time. By being more flexible in relation to where work is undertaken, the public sector could make significant savings and reduce the carbon footprint due to the reduction in office accommodation.

“Just as important is the evidence about reduced staff turnover and reduced travel time and costs which have been shown to improve when flexible working is introduced.”

The Committee’s overarching recommendation is that the Department of Finance and Personnel should bring forward proposals to the Executive for a new Programme for Government commitment aimed at ensuring that the full range of flexible working practices are used strategically to achieve the maximum efficiency and effectiveness in the public sector.

Chairperson McKay concluded: “Improving the way the public sector works is an important part of making the best use of the monies available; we believe that if the Department and the Executive take our recommendations forward it will be of great benefit both to the economy and for the people who work in our public sector.”