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Listening works well for staff.

Byline: BETHAN DARWIN LAW & MORE

WE'D all be better off if we spent less time at work and did some gardening. That's what independent think tank The New Economics Foundation (NEF) argues in a call for a new, voluntary scheme for a shorter working week, referred to as National Gardening Leave.

NEF believes that National Gardening Leave will make people happier and healthier and the economy more protected from food and energy price shocks.

Four-day weeks are standard in some economies such as the Netherlands and, NEF argues, bring multiple benefits to individuals, workplaces, communities, the environment and the economy. Anyone in England and Wales can ask their employer to work a shorter week, but only certain categories of employees have the right to request flexible working. An employee needs to have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks and have parental responsibility of a child aged under 17; or have parental responsibility of a disabled child under 18; or be a carer for an adult who is a relative or who lives at the same address.

The right is only to request flexible working. Although the employer must seriously consider the request it can reasonably decline the request where there is a legitimate business ground. Unless your full week's working hours can be compressed into four days, shorter working hours usually result in correspondingly less pay. Given that many employees struggle to make ends meet, working less hours is often a financial impossibility.

If most employees are stuck with a full working week, how can employers ensure their employees are motivated and productive? Employee engagement was a topic for a number of speakers at the Superwoman conference last week. Nicola Amery, hospital director at Spire, explained how Spire conducted a survey of staff engagement levels and then embarked on a successful exercise to increase those levels. Spire introduced discussion forums, manager development programmes, charity fund raising and a company choir.

Insolvency practitioners PJG Recovery said bringing their staff along to events like Superwoman helped build team spirit and motivation.

Turns out that employees who are involved, appreciated and listened to - whatever the type of business - are happy to leave gardening to the weekend. | Bethan Darwin is a partner at law firm Darwin Gray
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 17, 2012
Words:375
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