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Do Employers Need To Agree To Flexible Working Arrangements?

Published August 04, 2016 (last updated June 19, 2020) -
Young Mother Holding Baby While Working On Laptop

Flexible working arrangements allow employees more flexibility with their work / life balance. Working parents, particularly those with young children, can find it difficult to juggle both work and family obligations. Flexible working arrangements can also be beneficial to businesses, as they can increase employee retention, job satisfaction, and decrease absenteeism.

Flexible working arrangements can include:

  • changes to start and finish times
  • part-time work or job sharing
  • increased hours, but fewer working days
  • rostered days off in half days or more flexibility
  • time off, instead of overtime payments
  • increased working from home

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 years or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence
  • provide care or support to someone in their household or immediate family who are victims of family or domestic violence

The above employees are only entitled to request flexible working arrangements, once they have worked for their employer for 12 continuous 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.

Do I have to agree to my employee’s request?

While you may have informal conversations with your employees around possible working flexibility, your employee must make a formal request for flexible working arrangements in writing, setting 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.

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

Reasonable 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 is about balancing the needs of 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.

Employsure is here to help. If you have any questions relating to flexible working arrangements for your employees, call us today on 1300 651 415.

About Employsure

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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