Flexible Working Arrangements The Facts

From 1 December 2018, modern awards were updated to include new rules for employers in relation to the process for considering requests for flexible work arrangements, including the requirement for the employer to discuss the request with the employee.

What is a Flexible Working Arrangement?

Flexibility in the workplace allows employers and employees to make specific arrangements about working conditions that suit them. Flexibility arrangements help employees maintain a work/life balance and can help employers improve the productivity and efficiency of their business.

Who is eligible to request a Flexible Working? Arrangement?

Employees (other than a casual employee) who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act if they:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school-aged or younger;
  • are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010);
  • have a disability;
  • are 55 years or older;
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence; or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

Some employers may wish to extend the option of applying for a flexible working arrangement to all employees as a tool for attraction and retention of high-quality employees.

What are examples of what they may request?

Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to:

  • hours of work (e.g. changes to start and finish times, longer or shorter days);
  • patterns of work (e.g. split shifts or job sharing); and
  • locations of work (e.g. working from home).

What is the process I am required to follow and what are the Changes?

The process for the request and consideration of a flexible working arrangement is as follows:

  1. Employee submits the request in writing;
  2. Employee and Employer discuss the request;
  3. The employer considers the request and if the request can be granted;
  4. If the request cannot be approved as requested, the employer may go back with an alternative arrangement for consideration by the employee; and
  5. The employer notifies the employee of the outcome of the request in writing within 21 days of the request being made.

Can I refuse a request?

You may under certain circumstances refuse a request for flexible work arrangements on reasonable business grounds.  Fair Work provides guidance on what it considers to be reasonable in this circumstance. The preference is that as an employer, you always aim to negotiate a mutually suitable outcome for both parties, prior to refusing a request for flexibility.

What are the consequences of not following the Process?

The right to request a flexible working arrangement for the groups of people outlined above is a National Employment Standard (NES). It is important to note, a contravention of the NES may result in penalties of up to $12,600 for an individual and $63,000 for a corporation.

Do you have questions or require further support?

If you have any questions or would like any help with this including the drafting of a Flexible Working Arrangements Policy or an Individual Flexibility Arrangement, ensuring compliance with Fair Work guidelines, please give me a call or send me an email.

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