Northern Ireland currently has no statutory right to flexible working, with employees having the right to request flexible working arrangements only if they have been working continuously for their employer for at least 26 weeks and there being no guarantee it will be accepted.
South Belfast MLA Ms Nicholl said strengthening working rights could result in a more inclusive and productive local economy.
“COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the landscape of our economy and workforce. Remote and flexible working practices introduced during the pandemic are now becoming increasingly common around the world as businesses adapt to the new economic reality,” she said.
“The lack of a right to flexible working in Northern Ireland is limiting our economic potential. With the lengthy process involved in applying for flexible working and the potential for that application to be rejected, certain groups within our society could be excluded from entering the workforce.
“In light of the soaring costs of childcare, the right to flexible working practices also presents significant challenges for parents seeking to return to work after parental leave, who may require flexibility to ensure adequate childcare provision.
“I am committed to introducing a Private Member’s Bill to strengthen the right to flexible working practices in Northern Ireland. Alliance believes the introduction of more flexible practices could enhance the inclusiveness and productivity of our economy, allowing carers and parents in particular an opportunity to join or re-join the workforce, and make a valuable contribution to the Northern Ireland economy.
“I am keen to engage with a range of stakeholders on this issue and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the potential legislation with a wide range of groups and organisations.”