Increases to flexible work arrangements

Australians will now have the express right to request flexible working arrangements under changes to federal workplace laws.

The Government has amended the Fair Work Act to broaden the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Since July 2013 a number of legislative changes concerning the rights of employees to request flexible working arrangements commenced. It is important that all businesses are aware of these changes and have implemented them into their business.

These changes benefit employees who may otherwise feel they have no choice but to leave employment. It also benefits employers as they are able to retain skilled and experienced staff.

These changes provide a framework for workers and employers to discuss the employee’s needs for flexible working arrangements. Many workers are currently unaware of their rights to request flexible work arrangements.

Due to this the Government will amend the Fair Work Information Statement to ensure that new employees are aware of their rights.

The National Employment Standards and the Fair Work Act 2009 outlined the legal right of employees, in certain circumstances, to request flexible working arrangements from their employer.

Initially this right only applied for an individual who is a parent or has the responsibility for the care of a child under school age, or under 18 with a disability.

However, the application to request flexible working arrangements has been broadened to include a wider range of employees. It has also been broadened to clarify the reasons for which employee requests can be denied.

The current legislation gives examples of flexible working arrangements to be changes in hours of work, changes in patterns of work and changes in location of work.

The circumstances in which workers can request flexible work arrangements will be extended to include:

  • workers with caring responsibilities
  • employees who are parents, or who have responsibility for the care of a child of school age
  • employees with a disability
  • mature age employees (55 or older)
  • workers experiencing family violence
  • workers providing personal care, support and assistance to a member of their immediate family or member of their household who is experiencing family violence

The Act outlines that the request for flexible working arrangements must be made in writing and clearly outline the changes that are sought by the employee.

The employer must provide a written response to the request within 21 days, stating whether the employer grants or refuses the request, and if applicable the reasons for the refusal.

Employers can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds. Some examples of this are:

  • the requested working arrangements are too costly for the employer
  • the requested working arrangements would be likely to have a significant negative impact on customer service
  • it would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees, or to hire new workers to accommodate the requested changes
  • the requested working arrangements would be likely to result in a significant loss in efficiency or productivity

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