All employees: Asking for flexibility for your work arrangements
When can I ask for different work arrangements?
At any time you have the right to ask your employer for a change to:
- when you work – your hours or days of work
- where you work – for example, if you want to work at home.
If you’re affected by family violence, you can also ask for flexibility for any other aspects of your job that need to be changed – like what tasks you do at work, or which contact details you give to your employer (to keep yourself safe you may need to keep your current home address secret).
You have to put your request in writing. You’ll need to explain:
- whether the change you want would be permanent or temporary – and, if it would only be temporary, how long it would be for, and
- what changes, if any, you think your employer may need to make in their business if they agree to your request.
Victims of family violence also have a separate right to ask for short-term flexibility to their work arrangements: see the next section.
Your employer’s response to your request
Your employer has to respond to your request for different work arrangements as soon as possible, and not later than one month after receiving it.
When they tell you their decision, this has to be in writing. If they refuse your request, they have to give you the reasons for this.
Your employer can only refuse your request on one of the set grounds specified in the Employment Relations Act. These include, for example, that:
- they wouldn’t be able to reorganise your work among the other staff
- the arrangement would have a negative effect on work quality or work performance
- there wouldn’t be work available for you to do during the times you propose to work
- the arrangements would cost more.
Your employer must refuse your request if you’re covered by a collective employment agreement and the flexible working arrangements would be inconsistent with the agreement.
Can I challenge my employer’s decision if they refuse my request?
You can only challenge your employer’s response to your request if they haven’t followed the proper process, including if they don’t respond to you within the required time (one month), or if they refuse without giving you any reason at all.
You can’t legally challenge your employer’s response if you disagree with them that one of the allowed grounds for refusing your request applies in your case – for example, if they say that the quality of your work wouldn’t be as good. The law says that this is your employer’s decision to make. This means you can’t ask the Employment Relations Authority to overturn the employer’s decision on the grounds that it wasn’t reasonable.
But if your employer hasn’t followed the proper process – for example, if they simply ignore your request – you can ask a labour inspector for help. The inspector can pass on your dispute to the free mediation service. If mediation doesn’t resolve it, you can apply to the Employment Relations Authority (see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”). If the Authority agrees that your employer has breached the requirements, it can order them to pay you a penalty of up to $2,000.