Civil servants can start and finish work half an hour earlier after the plenum approved amendments to their working hours on Thursday to alleviate traffic issues.

MPs approved the regulations that amend civil servant’s arrival and departure times, with the aim, among other things, to reduce traffic jams occurring during peak hours.

According to the amendment, civil servants can arrive at work from 7am until 8.30am, and finish between 2.30pm and 4pm. To date, public service employees were arriving at work between 7.30am and 8.30am, with a finishing time from 3pm until 4pm.

The flexible working hours are also extended from one hour provided for under the current legislation, to one and a half hours.

Under the amendment, working hours for parliament employees are amended similarly, extending the flexibility from half an hour to one hour.

Furthermore, the deduction of an employee’s outstanding working time from their remuneration or the deduction of such time from their annual leave will be made at the end of the calendar year, instead of on a fortnightly basis as is currently the case.

The proposed extension of working hours in the public service was decided in an effort to help reduce the traffic that occurs at the start and end times of public servants’ working hours, as this will be spread over a wider period of time.

During discussions, MPs raised the issue of possible extension of working hours to better serve the public in the afternoon, the need to increase productivity in the public service and the need to strengthen public transport.

The Chairwoman of the Finance Committee, Diko MP Christiana Erotokritou stressed that it is of particular importance to serve the public in the civil service adding they have received assurances that this will not be affected by this regulation. She noted that they will monitor the issue.

Other MPs were reluctant as to whether this will alleviate the traffic problem to the desired extent.

Disy MP Onoufrios Koullas declared the benefit to traffic is very small. He said the first thing is to improve the working hours for the benefit of the public and repeated the statement that the operation of the public service will not be affected.

Another Disy MP, Kyriakos Hatzigiannis recommended that a study should be done to increase productivity in the public service “which is not known for its productivity” and measures should be found to combat this gap.

For his part, Akel MP Andreas Kafkalias said the extension of working hours should be used in the direction of enhancing public service.

Depa MP Marinos Mousiouttas said that after the extension of flexible working hours in the civil service and based on the studies there would be 5-7 per cent mitigation of traffic but more needs to be done.

Referring to the traffic as a daily “nightmare” that affects people’s health, Diko MP Pavlos Mylonas said the issue should be of serious concern to everyone. He supported that civil servants can work some afternoons also, while a decision can be taken to change the operation hours of schools and to develop public transport, cycle paths and pedestrian streets.

The notion that the government should encourage public transport, walking and cycling was also mentioned by Green Party Leader Charalambos Theopemptou.