Flexible working amendments: Are you up to date?

Recent amendments to the Employment Relations Act have put flexibility firmly in the spotlight for New Zealand employers, but beyond legislative compliance, how else can employers place flexible work arrangements as the centrepiece of their EVP?

New Zealand employers should be aware of recent amendments to the Employment Relations Act or put themselves at risk of repercussions from the Employment Relations Authority. The maximum penalty for failing to comply with these new changes can be up to $2,000 which has to be paid directly to the employee lodging the complaint.

Passed in March 2015, these new changes affect conditions for flexible working arrangements and include the following:

  • Employees are no longer required to work for a company for six months before requesting a flexible work schedule and can do so from their first day on the job.
  • There is no limit to the number of requests an employee can make throughout the year.
  • Employers must respond to this request within one month instead of three as previously specified. This response must be made in writing and include reasons for refusal if necessary.

A new study on flexible work arrangements by OCG and Diversitas has found that 68% of New Zealand workers would consider leaving their current role if offered a similar position with greater flexibility. This signals a growing shift in the way local workers think, a trend yet to be noted by many NZ employers. 

Carol Brown, CEO of Diversitas, said that employers should be aware of these new requirements if they want to attract and retain the top workers. They should also acknowledge the paradigm shift among New Zealand workers seeking a greater work-life balance.
“2020 when, according to the Department of Labour, workforce growth in the country is set to plateau and talent shortages become urgent, is only five years away,” says Brown referring to government predictions that about 80% of the current workforce will still be there in 2020. While the need to hold onto existing talent will be imperative at that time, “this report shows our businesses are not only unprepared but unaware of their legal requirements to meet the demands of the millennial generation,” Brown added.
Other interesting statistics gained from the OCG/Diversitas study include:

  • 28% of employees currently have formal flexible working arrangements
  • 69% of these are female who want time to care for family members
  • 49% of Millennials want flexibility to pursue their personal hobbies
  • 46% of those aged between 31 and 45 have flexible arrangements
  • 80% of employees think work-life balance is a key benefit of flexibility
  • 57% think flexible arrangements enhance physical and mental wellbeing

The survey also found that organisations who encouraged these flexible work arrangements received a 71% positive impact on staff commitment and engagement. This then boosts loyalty and retention rates among the company’s workforce.

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