The battle over employers’ demand for “more flexibility”

Erling Rasmussen (Department of Management, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Barry Foster (Department of Management, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)
Deirdre Farr (Department of Management, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 3 October 2016



The purpose of this paper is to place empirical research on New Zealand employers’ attitudes to collective bargaining and legislative change within the context of the long running debate of flexibility.


A cross-sectional survey design using a self-administered postal questionnaire, covering private sector employers with ten or more staff and including employers within all 17 standard industry classification. To explore particular issues, an additional in-depth interviews were conducted of 25 employers participating in the survey.


It is found that employers support overwhelmingly recent legislative changes though there are variations across industries and firm sizes. There is also considerable variation in terms of which legislative changes are applied in the workplace. Despite fewer constraints on employer-determined flexibility, there was a rather puzzling finding that most employers still think that employment legislation is even balanced or favouring employees.


Cross-sectional survey findings of New Zealand employer attitudes to legislative changes are few and provide valuable data for policy makers, unions, employers and employment relations researchers. The paper also contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of pressures to increase employer-determined flexibility in many western countries.



Rasmussen, E., Foster, B. and Farr, D. (2016), "The battle over employers’ demand for “more flexibility”", Employee Relations, Vol. 38 No. 6, pp. 886-906.

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