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Flexible working arrangements

Published April 2, 2015 (last updated on May 20, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

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A flexible working arrangement allows an employee the opportunity to adjust their existing work schedule to suit their needs. This can include changes to working hours, or to the existing pattern or location of work to better suit their lifestyle and circumstances. Employers and employees can negotiate these changes to their mutual benefit, but certain employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements which an employer may have to accommodate.

Flexible Working Arrangements In Australia

If an eligible employee has a right to request a flexible working arrangement there are requirements under the Fair Work Act 2009 for both employers and employees. Requests for flexible working arrangements should be in writing and explain what changes are being asked for (for example arrangements that include changes to days or hours of work or requests to work from home) and explain the reasons behind the requested change.

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. Both parties should consider potential solutions for managing the impact. The parties can negotiate to come to an arrangement that balances both of their needs.

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.

Adopting a flexible work policy for all employees, not just those with a right to a flexible working arrangement because of their circumstances, can contribute to a positive work culture and create certainty in your business for employees as to how they can potentially better manage their working lives.

Employee Right To Request Flexible Working

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 that employers need to provide, for certain eligible employees, which can only be refused on reasonable business grounds.

Prior to July 2013, the Fair Work Act 2009 only allowed employees who were parents or who were responsible for a child under school age (or a child with a disability) to request  these flexible working arrangements.

Since then, the eligibility criteria have been amended to include a broader range of employees, provided they have been employed within the business continuously for at least 12 months immediately prior to making the request. This includes casual employees if they are reasonably expected to continue working regularly in the business.

To apply for flexible working arrangements employees must also be

  • Parents or caring for a child who is school aged or younger

  • a carer as defined in the Carer Recognition Act 2010

  • aged 55 years or more

  • have a disability

  • be experiencing family or domestic violence

  • provides care or support to an immediate family member who is experiencing All employers who receive a request from one of these eligible employees must provide a written response within 21 days which outlines whether the request is approved or refused.

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.

Benefits Of Flexible Working Arrangements

Switching to flexible working conditions may have far-reaching benefits for both workers and employees.

Research conducted by the University of Sydney Business School, which involved an in-depth analysis of eight organisations, all of which had an “All Roles Flex” policy, the benefits were widespread for both employers and employees.

Tony Roderick, researcher and lab fellow says that, ”Most organisations interviewed were very aware that access to flexibility is a key driver of employee attraction across age groups, gender, and types of employment.

The report also states that the focus on the pull-factor of flexibility has driven a range of responses from employers keen to keep the best people and manage turnover costs.

Based on the results of this study and similar cases, many experts agree having a flexible work policy is an effective way to boost productivity, employee morale, retention rates, and gain a competitive edge.

Types Of Flexible Working Arrangements

Provided employees receive their minimum entitlements, employers and employees can negotiate ways to make their workplace more flexible and help employees achieve work-life balance.

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

  • Flexible rostering such as broken or split shifts

  • Job sharing

  • Working from home or from another location and remote work

It can also mean:

  • Compressed hours (working more hours over fewer days)

  • Changing from full-time to part-time or even casual work

  • ‘Purchasing’ extra paid leave

  • Taking unpaid leave

  • Taking rostered days off as 2 half days instead of one full day

  • Time off in lieu

  • Flexitime (allowing employees to ‘bank’ extra hours which are then exchanged for time off)

  • Gradual increase or decrease in work hours – before or after parental leave, or leading up to retirement, for example.

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.

Employers 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.

BrightHR helping you manage your people and business

Contact us to find out how BrightHR people management software can help you manage and store your essential employee records and documents.

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Create a Flexible Working Policy

The purpose of a flexible work policy is to set in place the principles, guidelines, and procedures which relate to flexible working arrangements.

The policy should make emphasize and clarify the following for employees:

  • Who has the statutory right to submit a request for flexible work

  • What type of changes can employees request – i.e. flexible working hours, work patterns, and location

  • Procedures to follow to submit a flexible work request

  • Clear distinction between a formal and informal request for flexible work

  • Any applicable working from home health and safety policies

Employsure can provide templates for applications for flexible working and help you with a response to a request for a flexible work arrangement. For peace of mind, please call our 24 hour Advice Line now on 1300 651 415.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Flexible Working Arrangements?

Flexible Working Arrangements allow employers and employees to negotiate working conditions that suit both their needs.

What Is The Purpose Of Flexible Work Arrangements?

To allow employers and employees to negotiate ways to make their workplace more flexible to their mutual benefit, though employees must continue to receive their minimum entitlements.

Who Can Request Flexible Working Arrangements?

Anyone can request flexibility – but certain employees have a legal entitlement to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act that can only be refused on reasonable business grounds

Who Is Entitled To Flexible Working Arrangements?

Employees who have been employed within the business continuously for at least 12 months immediately prior to making the request, including casual employees if they are reasonably expected to continue working regularly in the business, can apply for flexible working arrangements, provided 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
  • are providing care or support to someone in their household or immediate family who is a victim of family or domestic violence
Do Employers Have to Offer Flexible Working Arrangements?

No, but as an employer, you may have an obligation to consider and respond to each request for flexible work if made by an eligible employee, in which case you may refuse a request only if it is based on reasonable business grounds.

How Do Employees Request Flexible Working Arrangements?

An employee should request a flexible working request in writing and include details of the proposed change as well as the reasons for the request

Can A Casual Employer Request Flexible Working Arrangement?

Yes, casual employees with at least 12 months of continuous service on a regular and systematic basis with the employer immediately prior to making the request and had an expectation of continuing employment on that same basis may request a flexible working arrangement.

What Is An Individual Flexibility Arrangement?

An IFA is a written agreement made with an individual employee to change the effect of certain terms in the employee’s award or registered agreement. It is used to make alternative arrangements to meet the needs of the employer and the individual employee.

However, an IFA can’t be used to reduce or remove an employee’s entitlements and must leave an employee better off overall when compared to their award or registered agreement. An IFA can only change terms and conditions as permitted by the underlying award or agreement.

What Are Examples Of Flexible Work Arrangements?

Common examples of flexible working arrangements include:

  • flexible start and finish times
  • compressed hours (working more hours over fewer days)
  • part-time work
  • casual work
  • job sharing
  • flexible rostering
  • working from home or another location
  • ‘purchasing’ extra paid leave
  • unpaid leave
  • taking rostered days off as 2 half days
  • time off in lieu
  • flexitime (allowing employees to ‘bank’ extra hours which are then exchanged for time off)
  • gradual increase or decrease in work hours

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