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How to manage flexible working requests

How to manage flexible working requests (Last Updated On: February 3, 2016)

In a recent survey of our client base, 37.8% suggested the best method for retaining their staff was through flexible working arrangements. Interestingly, the next most popular, at 21%, was pay increases and/or bonuses. With more demands, increases in childcare cost and many other contributing factors, do not be surprised if a request for flexible working lands on your desk.

When reviewing flexible working requests, businesses are well within their rights to say no, however this must be substantiated.

Below we identify how to, no matter your business size and structure, fairly review all requests from employees.

Which employees are entitle to request flexible working arrangements?

All permanent employees can request flexible working arrangements but they must have a rational reason behind the request, and these can include:

– parents or a primary carer for school-aged or younger children

– carers

– persons with a disability

– people ages 55 years or over

– 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

These employees can only submit such requests once they have worked for the same employer for 12 continual months. Casual employees may also be entitled to flexible working arrangements if they have worked for the employer systematically and on a regular basis for at least 12 months.

What is the process you must follow 

All requests for flexible working must be submitted in writing, clearly identifying the request and the reasons behind it. While you may have informal conversations with your employees around possible arrangements, you must ensure you follow the formalities and keep the written document on file.

Following this, as an employer, you need to seriously consider the request and provide a response within 21 days.

When considering the request, think about the impact on your business and on other staff members if you were to approve. You must also remember, if you agree to a flexible arrangement, you must still abide by the Fair Work Act. For example, if a request is made to start earlier or finish later, consider any penalty rates that may apply.

Do you have to agree to the request?

Put simply, no, so long as there is reasonable business grounds for doing so.

Reasonable business grounds for refusing a request would relate to the operational requirements of the business including:

– it is too costly to the business

– there is no capacity, or it would impact other employees ability to do their job

– it would significantly impact efficiency, productivity or customer service

At the end of the day, it is 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 it with your employee and come to a compromise that works for both of you.

If you agree to a request for flexible working, you should make it clear the arrangement is subject to review if any changes are made to the businesses operational requirements.

If you can accommodate a request, there are many benefits associated, such as:

– staff moral can drastically increase resulting in higher levels of motivation and therefore, productivity

– reduction in staff turnover, sick leave and perhaps even cost

Other advice for employers

To ensure you follow a fair and correct process with all employee requests, have your flexible working policy clearly outlined in your Employee Handbook, identifying all steps involved in the process.


Employsure works with many businesses, across varying industries, on managing flexible working requests. We can assist by consulting with you and providing guidance around the main points you should consider when discussing possible arrangements for your employees. Additionally, Employsure can also assist you in writing a response to any request. Contact us today on 1300 651 415.

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