Flexible working arrangements.

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What Is a Flexible Working Arrangement?

A flexible working arrangement allows an employee with 12 months service the opportunity to adjust their existing work schedule. This can include flexible working hours, pattern or location of work to better suit their lifestyle and circumstances.

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 flexible working arrangements.

Since then, the eligibility criteria has been amended to include a broader range of employees, these include;

  • Parents, carer of a child who is school aged or younger
  • Are a carer as defined in the Carer Recognition Act 2010
  • Are over 55 years
  • Have a disability
  • Employees who are experiencing family or domestic violence
  • An employee who provides care or support to an immediate family member who is experiencing family or domestic violence.

As a result of these changes, flexible work has become more accessible and adopted by a growing number of businesses.

Do Employers Have to Offer Flexible Working Arrangements?

As an employer, you have an obligation to consider and respond to each request for flexible work. You may, however, refuse a request if it is based on reasonable business grounds.

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.[1]

In the words of researcher and lab fellow, Tony Roderick:

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:

This 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.

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Who Can Request For Flexible Working?

Permanent employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months may request a flexible working arrangement 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
  • are providing care or support to someone in their household or immediate family who is a victim of family or domestic violence

Casual employees may be entitled to flexible work if they have worked for the same employer on a continuous and systematic basis for at least 12 months.

It is best practice to first discuss with your employee their needs and reason for the flexible working arrangement and the business objectives. Once an agreement has been made verbally this should be finalised in writing.

If your employee puts forth a written request this must be responded to within 21 days. A request can only be refused on reasonable business grounds.

Even if an employee does not fit under any of the above categories, it is still seen as good faith to consider and respond to a request for flexible work.

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

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 207 182.

[1] https://sydney.edu.au/content/dam/corporate/documents/sydney-policy-lab/all-roles-flex-report.pdf

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