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Proposed Changes to Flexible Working Arrangement

Published 18 May 2012

Proposed Changes To Employment Law Announced

The Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson has announced a package of measures that will extend workers’ rights to request flexible working hours.

The changes have been approved by Cabinet and are expected to go before Parliament this year.

“These improvements are a reflection of National’s election manifesto, and show that we’re keeping our pre-election promises,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“We are extending the right to request flexible working arrangements to all workers, right from their first day on the job.  Under the current law this is only available to caregivers, and only then after six months of employment.

“Modern lifestyles are changing, and workplaces need to reflect this reality.  Flexible working arrangements will boost productivity and help employees find the work-life balance that works for them and their family.

“Flexible hours are often agreed to informally, and by extending eligibility to all employees, we hope to encourage agreement without having to go through a formal process.

”Ms Wilkinson says that the changes reflect a pragmatic approach to improving fairness and flexibility in employment law that will improve work-life balance, increase productivity, and help create higher paying jobs for all New Zealanders.


Employers Assistance Ltd are very concerned of the impact this may potentially have on Employers.  The Minister in her statement is encouraging informal arrangements and this is well and good in many employer – employee relationships, but it just doesn’t work in many others.  To reduce exposure, we recommend that employers use formal processes.

Employers must consider any request for flexible working arrangements and must also respond, preferably in writing, and should give reasons should they decide not to allow flexible working arrangements.

The reasons must be recognised business grounds.  For your information, here is the list of valid business reasons for declining a request for flexible working arrangements:

•        inability to reorganise work among existing staff;

•        inability to recruit additional staff;•detrimental impact on quality;

•        detrimental impact on performance;

•        insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work;

•        planned structural changes;

•        burden of additional costs;

•        detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.

Under the proposed legislation, Employers could be faced with the extra administration of dealing with requests from any employees from their first day of work – even if flexible working arrangements had been ruled out in negotiations during the recruitment process.

We will keep you informed, via our newsletters, when this proposed change goes before Parliament.