Employers have to grant a request for flexible working hours by an employee with dependent children under a new law passed in November.
Employers can only refuse this request under certain circumstances, including:
Re-organising the work around other staff, or recruiting new staff, is not possible
Extra costs are too high, or restructuring is in progress
Customer demand cannot be met any other way.
The request would impact negatively on performance.
The request also cannot undermine any collective employment agreement in force at the workplace.
The law is expected to benefit mainly fathers whose caregiving roles are less acknowledged by employers than mothers.
In disputes the matter will be referred to a Labour Inspector first rather than the Courts. Employers are liable for compensation towards the employee of $2,000 in the case of non-compliance.
Law sponsor, Green MP Sue Kedgley, believes the law will change ‘work place culture’. The National Party was opposed to it on the grounds that employers already offer flexi-time voluntarily.
The Council of Trade Unions believes the law should be extended to all employees, not just those caring for dependants, partly to avoid discrimination by employers against parents.
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