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Employer Obligations For Flexible Working Requests

Published July 01, 2021 (last updated July 2, 2021) Author: Employsure
Mother working from Home

A flexible workplace can be beneficial for both employers and employees. Employees can manage their lives better, which in turn may improve morale and productivity. Provided employees receive their minimum entitlements, employers and employees can negotiate ways to make their workplace more flexible. However certain employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements which an employer may have to accommodate.

Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) – National Employment Standards

The National Employment Standards (NES) are minimum employment standards contained in the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act) that must be provided to employees covered by the national workplace relations system. Requests for flexible working arrangements are part of those minimum entitlements for employees that employers need to provide though certain conditions apply.

Employer Obligations For Flexible Working Arrangements

Permanent employees who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months have the right to request flexible working arrangements if they:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • are a carer
  • have a disability
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family because of family or domestic violence.

Casual employees can request flexible working arrangements if they have been employed on a regular and systematic basis over at least the past 12 months, and they can reasonably expect to continue being employed in this way.

Under the NES an employer can only refuse a request for a flexible working arrangement by an eligible employee on ‘reasonable business grounds’.

Handling Requests For Flexible Working Arrangements

Requests for flexible working arrangements have to be in writing and explain what changes are being asked for and why.
Employers should meet with the employee to discuss their request first, and employers covered by an award must consult with the employee to try to reach an agreement about changes to the employee’s working conditions. The consultation meeting is an opportunity for both parties to discuss the flexible work request and the impact of the proposed new arrangement on the business. Potential solutions for managing the impact should be considered. The parties can negotiate to come to an arrangement that balances both of their needs.

Important factors to consider are the needs of the employee, and any consequences for the employee if changes in working arrangements aren’t made as well as any reasonable business grounds for refusing the employee’s request.

All employers who receive a request for a flexible working arrangement from an eligible employee must provide a written response within 21 days which outlines whether the request is approved or refused, and why. Alternative working arrangements must also be considered and offered, if available, within this letter.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Alternative Work Arrangements

As long as employees still receive their entitlements, employers and employees can negotiate ways to make their work arrangements more flexible to help manage the impact of COVID-19, such as working from home, or changes to working hours and duties. In addition, temporary changes have been made to some awards to allow for more flexible alternative working arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Options For Flexible Work Arrangements

The types of changes an eligible employee may request to their working arrangements may include changes in hours of work, changes in patterns of work and changes in locations of work, for example:

  • Changes to days or hours of work
  • Changes to start and finish times
  • Broken shifts
  • Job sharing
  • Working from home

To help you manage the new flexible working arrangements BrightHR has a Blip tool which allows employees to clock on and off so you can track their working hours and location. You can generate a report that will show the number of shifts and hours worked, breaks and their duration and the total number of hours worked excluding those breaks.

You can create employee rosters and easily make changes to shifts with the drag and drop rostering tool, and you can manage leave requests and absences on-the-go with the BrightHR Mobile App. You can generate and print reports, and then store wage and time records and related documents securely in the cloud to meet record-keeping requirements.

People Management made easy with BrightHR

Find out how BrightHR can help you manage your people and your business.

Denying Flexible Working Arrangements

Employers can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds. If a request is refused the written response must include the reasons for the refusal.

Awards may have specific requirements as to what should be included in the written response if the request is refused or if a different change in working arrangements is agreed.

Reasonable business grounds can include:

  • the requested arrangements are too costly
  • other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
  • it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.

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About Employsure

Employsure is one of Australia’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 25,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Should Employers Do With A Request?

    Employers covered by an award must first discuss the request with their employee to try to reach an agreement about changes to the employee’s working conditions, taking into consideration:

    • the needs of the employee
    • consequences for the employee if changes in working arrangements aren’t made 
    • any reasonable business grounds for refusing the employee’s request.
  • What Are Reasonable Business Grounds?

    Reasonable business grounds can include:

    • the requested arrangements are too costly
    • other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
    • it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
    • the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.
  • Can An Employer Refuse A Request For Flexible Work?

    Employers can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds.

  • For What Reasons Can An Employer Refuse Requests for Flexible Working Arrangements?

    Employers can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds. If a request is refused the written response must include the reasons for the refusal.

    Reasonable business grounds can include:

    • the requested arrangements are too costly
    • other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
    • it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
    • the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.

     

  • Do Employers Have To Offer Flexible Working Arrangements?

    No, but it may be beneficial to the business to do so, as it may improve employee morale and productivity. An Employer does need to seriously consider any requests for flexible working arrangements made by an eligible employee and may only refuse in limited circumstances.

  • Why Is It Important For Workplaces To Consider Flexible Work Arrangements And The Employee’s Personal Circumstances?

    Under the NES eligible employees may request a flexible work arrangement depending on their personal circumstances to help them to balance their work and life or family commitments, which an employer may only refuse on reasonable business grounds.

  • What Are Some Of The Different Types Of Flexible Work Arrangements?

    • Changes to days or hours of work
    • Changes to start and finish times
    • Broken shifts
    • Job sharing
    • Working from home

     

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