The term ‘flexible working’ encompasses most working arrangements outside of the ‘ordinary’ – including working from home, part-time, or compressed hours (ie working your regular quota of hours over fewer days).
If an employee has at least 26 weeks of service with their employer, they are entitled to make a request for a flexible working arrangement, which their employer must at least consider. If the employer chooses to refuse the request, they must do so based on one of the eight reasons permitted under the ERA. These include that flexible working would incur additional costs or it would negatively impact the business’ ability to meet customer demands or quality or performance aims.
The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will bring changes to flexible working laws, likely in 2024. These will make it easier in some ways for employees to obtain flexible working arrangements. However, these updated rules are not yet in force.
Time off for dependants
Employees have a right to take a reasonable amount of time off work when such is necessary to enable them to take action that’s required to assist one of their dependants with an unexpected or sudden emergency.
Employees can take time off to provide immediate assistance (eg to pick up a child from school) or to make ongoing arrangements for support (eg by arranging a carer, like a babysitter). What qualifies as a ‘dependant’ and as an ‘emergency’ can be quite broad. For example, an elderly neighbour who depends on the employee for assistance when they’re ill could be a dependant, and an emergency doesn’t always need to occur suddenly.
For more information, read the FAQs accompanying our Time off for dependants policy.
Unpaid parental leave
People with parental responsibility (eg biological parents, adoptive parents, and legal guardians) have a legal right to take unpaid time off work once they’ve accrued 12 months of service with an employer. This leave is to be taken so that the employee can help care for a child at any point before the child’s 18th birthday.
Although employers can postpone a request for this leave, employees must be allowed to take it. It can be used for things like looking after children during school holidays, caring for them when they’re ill, or even going on holidays or to events with them.
For more information, read Parental leave.
While carer’s leave rights have not yet come into force, they are expected to do so in 2024. Any employee who has to provide or arrange for the long-term care of a dependent (eg a child) will be able to take up to one week of unpaid leave. Employees will be able to take carers’ leave from their first day of employment.
For more information, read Carer’s leave.
How to make use of these rights
Employees should consider making use of these various statutory rights to take time off or to tailor their work schedules to facilitate care arrangements. You can even make use of these rights for exciting activities like family holidays.
The best way to be sure of your rights and to promote a healthy, communicative relationship with your employer is to (when possible) discuss with them any rights you’re planning to exercise before you do so. Your employer may also offer enhanced entitlements, which they can communicate to you in discussion or via employment policies or handbooks.
For more information on the employment rights you may be entitled to, read Family leave and rights.