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A guide to flexible working arrangements

A guide to flexible working arrangements (Last Updated On: February 6, 2015)

With the start of the school term we’ve received an increase in calls from clients asking about flexible working arrangements. Working parents, particularly those with young children, can find it difficult to juggle both work and family obligations. This article will give you a rundown of things to consider when your staff seek more flexible hours at work.

Who can request flexible working arrangements?

Historically, flexible working arrangements only applied to employees who were parents of or had responsibility for a child under school age (or a child with a disability). Changes to the Fair Work Act in 2013, widened the categories of employees who can apply for flexible working arrangements. Now, permanent employees can request flexible working arrangements if they:

  • are the parent or primary carer for school-aged or younger children;
  • are a carer;
  • have a disability;
  • are 55 or older;
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence; or
  • provide care or support to someone in their household or immediate family who are victims of family or domestic violence.

These employees are only entitled to request flexible working arrangements once they worked for their employer for 12 months. Casual employees may also be entitled to request flexible working arrangements if they have worked for the employers on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months.

What is the process and do I have to agree to the request?

While you may have informal conversations with your employees around possible flexibility, your employee must make a formal request for flexible working arrangements in writing and set out the details of the change requested and the reasons for the change.

You must then consider the request and provide the employee with a response within 21 days to inform them whether their request has either been granted or rejected.

Do you have to agree to the request?

Put simply, you may reject an employee’s request for flexible work if there is reasonable business grounds for doing so.

Reasonable business grounds for refusing a request would relate to the operational requirements of the business. For example, employers are not required to accept a request which would be too costly, if there is no capacity or it would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees to accommodate the request, or the request would have a significant impact on efficiency, productivity or customer service.

At the end of the day, it’s about balancing the needs of both the employer and employee. If you do not think you can accommodate a request, often the best approach is to discuss the request with your employee and come to a compromise which works for both of you.

If you agree to a request for flexible working, you should make it clear that this arrangement is subject to review if any changes are made to the operational requirements of the business. Make sure you keep the arrangements under review.

How does Employsure assist your business?

We can assist by consulting with you and providing guidance around the main points that you should consider when discussing flexible working arrangements for your employees. Additionally, Employsure can also assist you in writing a response to any request – please call us on 1300 651 415 for advice.

Adam Tsui – Document Consultant

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