Flexible work

Flexible work is any variation from the norm in a worker’s hours, days or location of work. It can be a formal or informal arrangement with an employer.

There are many types of flexible work: flexibility of roles (such as job sharing), flexibility of hours or schedule (such as working part-time, or working different hours on different days or weeks), flexibility of place (such as working from home) and flexibility of leave (such as enhanced parental leave or study leave).

There are examples and more information about types of flexible work in the Champions for Change Mainstreaming flexible working toolkit and on the Employment New Zealand Flexible working arrangements webpages.

Legislation and flexible working arrangements

Employees have the statutory ‘right to request’ flexible working arrangements and employers have a ‘duty to consider’ seriously any such requests, under the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Arrangements) Amendment Act 2007.

There is a short guide to the Act here.

There is advice for employers and employees on their rights and responsibilities under the Act as well as examples of application forms and letters at the Employment New Zealand Flexible working arrangements webpages

The benefits of flexible work

Flexible work can help men and women to remain in the labour market and can facilitate shared care for children or other dependents. It is a key enabler of women’s labour force participation.

Flexible work offers more opportunities for employees and employers and makes good business sense for attracting and retaining skilled labour. International studies indicate that flexible work is commonly seen as a business retention tool and one which, if used strategically, can also improve the productivity and profitability of a business.

The Champions for Change, a group of private and public sector chief executives and chairs, maintain that flexible work can foster better employee recruitment, retention and engagement, reduce absenteeism, improve job satisfaction, gender diversity and inclusion, and lift morale.

Their Mainstreaming flexible working toolkit has examples of New Zealand businesses that are successfully implementing flexible working and seeing the benefits.

Better for the bottom line: a case study on the benefits of flexible work for businesses

In 2010 the Ministry conducted research on workplace flexibility in the accounting sector.  Two of the firms interviewed (both medium-sized businesses), were successfully using flexibility as part of a total business model. At these firms, flexible work arrangements were universally available and were nearly universally taken up – for a range of reasons, not only childcare.  The two firms found that the flexible practices business model was working in terms of staff retention, productivity and firm profitability.

Normalising flexible work

Career breaks and part-time work can act as barriers to career advancement, as shown in the Ministry for Women report Realising the Opportunity.

Gender pay gaps increase when working women have families, and the gaps remain wide throughout their working lives. Working part time or flexibly can have a negative impact on womens’ career progression and earnings if it is associated with roles that have limited scope, responsibility, prospects, or low pay. Normalising flexible work for men and women reduces these negative impacts and helps men and women to share caring responsibilities.

We have advice and resources for employers on normalising flexible work and parental leave for men and women.