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Flexible Working Arrangements

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In recognition that flexible working arrangements support more workforce participation, the Fair Work Commission now has powers to arbitrate disputes where a mutually suitable local solution hasn’t been able to be achieved.

The idea is that this encourages employers to consider requests and negotiate arrangements which support both the employer and the employee more fulsomely. The employer isn’t obliged to accept the request, but they are expected to consider it and work with the employee to find a solution that works for both parties (which may be a revised approach to their original request).

So, who can request a flexible working arrangements and what can they ask for?

If an employee has worked for a company for 12 months and they:

· Are the parent, or carer for a school age of younger child;

· Are a carer of a family member;

· Have a disability;

· Are 55 years old or over;

· Are experiencing domestic violence, or providing care to a family or household member who is experiencing domestic violence

They’re entitled to apply for a flexible working arrangement. They should do this in writing and outline the changes they’re seeking, the duration and the reason they’re seeking the arrangement.

The types of flexibility that can be requested include:

· Changed hours of work (e.g. shift to part time, revised start and finish times etc),

· Changed patterns of work (e.g. different days, asking to job-share, working split shifts),

· Changed work location (working from site closer to home/childcare, working from home)

Casual team members can also apply for flexible working arrangements where they’ve been working on a regular and systematic pattern for the past 12 months and they’re going to continue working for the company into the future.

Your obligation as an employer

If you’ve not already discussed the request with your team member before you receive it, the first step is to have a conversation with them. Get an understanding of their circumstances, try to find out what the flexible arrangement will help them to achieve, so that you can then explore various ways to enable their request.

When considering how you can support their request, have regard for the parameters your team member has shared with you; what costs (if any) will this attract, will there be any impact on productivity or efficiency, how will the arrangement impact other team members, will there be an impact to your customers and do your business systems support the arrangement.

If their request appears unachievable, you may find that an alternate arrangement can be negotiated rather than needing to outright reject their flexible working request entirely.

In making a decision, be sure this is both discussed with your team member and also confirmed in writing, within 21 days of the original request being made to you.

If the flexible working arrangement is put in place, be sure to document the nature of the arrangement which has been agreed, the duration of the arrangement, any conditions which support the arrangement and an agreed review date, so that you can both check in that it’s working and/or refine it as you go along.

If the flexible work arrangement is refused, be sure to document the consideration you made, the alternative options explored and the specifics of the reasons why it’s not been able to be accepted.

Your team member may take a rejected Flexible Working Arrangement application to Fair Work as a dispute, and they will seek your decision letter as part of their process.

If you need advice or support with a flexible working arrangement, lets chat about how Humanistic HR can assist you.


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