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Flexible Working Arrangements for Your Staff

May 9, 2022

The term ‘flexible work’ covers a wide variety of arrangements and can be customized to suit each employee’s needs. Some common examples include:

  • Working from home
  • Working within different time frames, e.g. starting and finishing early
  • Working part-time or a different number of hours
  • Taking additional unpaid leave
  • Purchasing additional leave
  • Job-sharing

The demand for flexible work is increasing in New Zealand nowadays. Factors such as advancement in technology mean that workplaces that embrace flexible working will have a significant advantage in attracting and retaining staff.

Employer Obligations

Under the Employment Relations Amendment Act (2014), employers have a legal obligation to provide a way for their employees to request a flexible working arrangement. The law applies to any part-time or full-time employee, for any reason, and at any phase of their employment lifecycle. There are a limited number of reasons employers can decline flexible working arrangement request, such as an inability to reorganize work or recruit additional staff.

Acknowledging a Request

It is very important for an employer to acknowledge that the request is received. Acknowledging a request can be really helpful in case there has been a delay in the request reaching the employer.

If Some Information is Missing

If an application of flexible working arrangement has some information missing, then the employer must inform the employee what they have missed and ask them to resend the request when it is complete. As an employer, you should let the employee know that you don’t need to respond to their request until the necessary information is received.

Deal with a Request As Soon As Possible

When you receive a flexible working request from one of your employees, it is highly recommended that you deal with it as soon as possible. Don’t delay more than one month as this amount of time is sufficient for you to assess the impact of this arrangement on your business and make a decision. It is also recommended that you respond in writing.

Meet to Discuss

The best way for you and your employee to understand each other’s position and find a solution that works for both of you is to discuss the request face-to-face. It will give you a chance to discuss the requested flexible working arrangement in detail and consider how it could fit with you (as an employer), the business, employee, and other workers. Try to be as flexible as possible during the meeting.

Things You Can Do to Get the Most from the Meeting

As an employer, here are some things you can do to get the most from the meeting:

  • Draft an agenda or make a list of the issues you want to discuss at the meeting, for example if you are already aware that you can grant the request, you may want to discuss a start date that you deem suitable before formally accepting the request.
  • As mentioned before, you should try to be as flexible as possible. Think about other working arrangements that you would be willing to consider or if you would consider another trial or start date.
  • If you have asked another party to join the meeting, then do let your employee know beforehand.
  • Discuss with your other employees if they would want to cover any extra hours that may be created due to the flexible working arrangement with a certain employee.
  • Familiarize yourself with various types of flexible working arrangements that are available.
  • Involve external expertise if you think that it would be helpful.

Flexible Working Arrangement Trial

A flexible working arrangement trial can be really beneficial as it can offer you a chance to test the arrangement and see if it works for you, your employee, other employees, and the business in general. For instance, your employee may not be sure whether he/she wants to make a permanent change to his/her flexible working arrangement. At the same time, you as an employer, may be concerned about how the proposed working arrangement may affect your business operations and your other staff.

Put it in Writing

It is always a good idea to put the arrangement in writing, no matter how informal it may be. By doing so, you will be making sure that both you and your employee are clear about the start and end dates of the flexible working arrangement.

Flexible working has many benefits, such as increased job satisfaction, increased employee productivity, reducing the chance of burnout, etc. Businesses nowadays should see flexible work as an option for all employees.