October 2020

Flexible Working 


                                                   Hilary Max

This year New Zealanders have found themselves working from novel places.  A hotel room whilst in quarantine.  A kitchen table in a flat with 4 others.  Even the car to escape the noise of kids.

While for some the return to the office or workplace following lockdown was a relief, many others have seen the benefit in working flexibly.

Whether you are an employee wanting to keep that extra hour in your day once spent on your commute or an employer juggling a variety of flexible working requests, there are four things to keep in mind about flexible working.

1.                   Employment Relations Act

First and foremost, employment law still applies.  Employers and employees alike may be navigating a new world in the COVID-19 era, but even COVID-19 doesn’t change employment obligations.  The Employment Relations Act sets out timeframes for responding to flexible working requests and the reasons an employer can refuse a request.  So, know your rights/obligations under the Act.

2.                   Individual Employment Agreement

Similarly, don’t forget the individual employment agreement.  What does it say?  What rights/obligations does it create? If the flexible working arrangement is outside of the terms of the employment agreement, it is important to consider whether a formal variation of the agreement is required.  Variations should be recorded in writing to avoid disputes down the track. 

3.                   Workplace Policy

A flexible working policy can be a helpful tool for flexible work arrangements as it creates a process for requests and sets expectations. 

A policy should cover:

(a)                The process for making a request including what information is required, how a request should be made and who will make the decision.

(b)               Health and safety considerations.

(c)                Who will cover any costs of working remotely, if any.

(d)               Expectations of employees (i.e. should calls be forwarded to cellphones, attendance at meetings etc.)

4.                   Bias

Despite the changing times there often remains a perception that if you aren’t in the office doing the 9-5, you aren’t working as hard as those who are.  However studies also show that flexible working can increase employee engagement and productivity.

It’s important to check any assumptions that you or others in the workplace hold around flexible working.

Overall, flexible working has benefits to both employers and employees.  At the end of the day, flexible working means just that, working flexibly. Hard and fast rules often won’t work. The important part is making sure that you and your employee/employer are on the same page.

If you would like advice on flexible working, call our employment team or contact Hilary Max.