Now, perhaps more than ever before, it is possible to juggle the demands of office and home.  I’m not talking about technology advances allowing you to work from home.  I’m also not talking about a Segway getting you around the waterfront to your inner-city apartment quicker!  What I’m talking about is the flexi-hours legislation, incorporated in the Employment Relations Act.

What is it and who does it cover?  

The intention behind the flexi-hours legislation is to change employers’ attitudes towards more flexible working arrangements and to promote improved work-life balance for employees. 

Under the legislation employees have the right to apply for flexible or part-time hours where they have, amongst other things,  full-time care of children under five, or disabled children up to and including 18 years. 

Prior to the legislation many employers would have considered proposals for flexible working arrangements from valued employees, so what’s changed? 

The legislation imposes a duty on all employers to consider every proposal.  It also requires employers to demonstrate a clear business case for refusing to turn down a request if the decision is challenged.  Such reasons might be, inability to re-organise work among existing staff or inability to recruit additional staff to accommodate changes. 

As an employer, what do I have to do if I receive a request for flexi-hours?

The following is a five point check-list if, as an employer, you receive a flexi-hours request from an employee: 

1.  Check that they qualify:

  • Have they worked for you for six months? If not, they don’t qualify.
  • Have they made a previous request within 12 months of the current one? If they have, they don’t qualify.
  • Have they the care of any person? The person does not have to be related to them and there is no minimum level of care necessary.

2.  If they do qualify, or you decide to consider their request anyway, you should consider whether there are grounds to refuse their request. Grounds for refusal are:

  • inability to re-organise work among existing staff;
  • inability to recruit additional staff;
  • 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.

3.  If they do not qualify, you can refuse their request and must notify them of the refusal and reasons for it.

4.  Regardless of outcome, you must answer the request within three months.

5.  If you decide to refuse the request, you must provide your employee with details of the ground for refusal and an explanation of the reasons for applying that ground.

You should be aware that failure to follow the prescribed procedures can result in a penalty of up to $2,000 which is payable to the employee.  For some employees it will be relevant also to note that members on a collective employment agreement cannot have a flexible arrangement contrary to the collective agreement.

Adding value to your business?

It may feel like just another prescriptive process to encumber employers.   It is hoped however, that employers can also benefit from encouraging work-life balance for staff. 

Research has for some time shown that employees who are supported by the bosses in a flexible working environment are more committed and productive at work. Businesses have also reported drops in absenteeism and improvements in staff retention.  

For more information on the legislation and how you can structure flexi-arrangements for employees check out  If you are still struggling with your obligations under the new legislation consult your professional advisor.