Published: Thu, Sep 1st, 2005

New legislation has been proposed to allow employees with young and dependent children the right to request flexible and/or reduced working hours.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill has recently passed its first reading in parliament.

The Bill will allow employees who have worked with the same employer continuously for the six months prior to their request to have the right to change their working hours when they have full time care of one or more children under the age of 5 or one or more disabled children up to the age of 18.

The employee will be required to make a specific application setting out the proposed change and to explain what effect that change would have on the employer and how it might be dealt with. The employee must also outline the current childcare arrangements and how the proposed changes would enable them to look after their child/children.

Any application for changes to employment conditions can relate to either the hours that the employee works or the days on which the employee is required to work.

From the employer’s point of view they will be required to acknowledge and deal with the application as soon as possible and can only refuse the application if it cannot be reasonably accommodated due to one or more of the following grounds:

  • Inability to re-organise work amongst existing staff;
  • Inability to employ additional staff;
  • A detrimental impact on the quality of work;
  • A detrimental impact on the performance;
  • Insufficient amount of work during the period that the employee proposes to work;
  • Planned structural changes.

Similar legislation passed in the U.K. several years ago saw over 1 million affected employees make requests under the legislation for reduced/flexible work arrangements. Of those requests over 70% were granted by the employers.

The Flexible Hours Amendment Bill is currently at Select Committee stage. The Select Committee is seeking submissions and release their report late August 2005.

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