New bill gives caregivers flexi-hour rights

Sunday Star Times 25 November 2007
More than two million New Zealanders have won new rights to request changes to their working hours as long as they are using the time to take care of someone close to them. And a last-minute change means the rights are far broader than first planned. A private member’s bill introduced by Green MP Sue Kedgley originally covered just those caring for children under five or disabled children up to 18, but now includes anyone caring for children, teenagers, elderly parents, grandchildren, whanau, or even friends in need. Under the bill, which was passed last week, employers must consider requests from all workers who have “the care of any person” for changes in their hours, days or place of work. The new law, an amendment to the Employment Relations Act, takes effect on July 1, 2008. “This is a very wide right,” said Kedgley. Similar legislation in Britain was initially greeted with alarm by employers, but was now seen as workable. Economist Dr Paul Callister, an expert on families and work, said the law change “is signalling a cultural change”. “It’s pretty lighthanded legislation, but I think it will give some more negotiating power to employees,” he said.