Unresolved requests

How to deal with unresolved flexible work arrangements requests.

Most flexible work arrangements requests will end when the employer gives their decision. But there will always be some times when an employee is not happy with the outcome. In these cases, the employee may want to involve a third party or think about making a formal complaint.

Informal discussion between the employee and employer

It’s a good idea to act in good faith and in the first instance try to resolve the problem within the workplace. It may be that there has been a simple misunderstanding and that this has affected the employer’s decision.

If the employee feels able to discuss a complaint with their manager, it may be possible to resolve the issue without the need to use more formal options. Where a time limit has not been met, for example, it may be far more effective to speak to the manager directly. In this case, letting management know that they need to reply as soon as possible (but not later than one month), rather than seeking to pursue the matter through the formal dispute resolution process, would be the best option for everyone. 

Contact us if you need help.

Making a formal complaint

Employees can only make a formal complaint if they think that their employer hasn’t properly followed the process for notifying them of their decision. This is the only ground that employees have for taking an action. They can’t take an action because their employer refused their request, or because they disagree with the ground given. Employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements, which doesn’t mean they have the right to have this request granted.

Third party assistance

If an employee thinks that their employer hasn’t properly notified them of their decision, they can refer the matter to a Labour Inspector who can assist the parties. This will likely take the form of facilitating a conversation between the parties, and making recommendations as to things to consider and next steps. 

If the issue is still not resolved the employee can refer the parties to mediation. If mediation doesn’t resolve the matter, the employee may apply to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) (external link)  for a decision about whether the employer has properly notified the employee of their decision. The ERA can impose a penalty against the employer of up to $2000.

Time limits

Employees must apply to the ERA:

  • within 12 months of the employer’s refusal of the request, or
  • where the request is not responded to, the employee has 13 months from the date that the employer received the employee’s request.

If the ERA decides that the employer has not complied with the process as set out in the law, it can impose a penalty of up to $2,000 payable by the employer to the employee concerned.

Employment Mediation Services has more information.

Employment Relations Authority (external link) helps to resolve employment relationship problems.

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Page last revised: 31 July 2020

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