Flexibility is becoming increasingly important for organisations across Australia as they begin to recognise it as a key enabler of gender equality. Attracting and retaining diverse talent is crucial for future-proofing the workplace and the Australian economy more broadly. Making workplaces more flexible and responsive to the needs of employees is a key way of doing this.
Flexible Working Arrangements
A flexible working arrangement may include changes in hours of work, changes in patterns of work, and changes in location of work. Employees (other than a casual employee) who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if the employee:
- Is a parent or has responsibility for the care of a child of school age or younger;
- is a carer;
- has a disability;
- is aged 55 or older;
- is experiencing family violence, or provides care or support to a family or household member experiencing family violence.
A request for a flexible working arrangement should be made in writing by the employee and submitted to the employer no less than six weeks before the end date of any period of unpaid parental leave. The request should set out details of the change sought and the reasons for it. The employer may reject a request on reasonable business grounds, having regard to such matters as the effect of the change on the employee’s capacity to perform the role’s requirements and the impact of the change on work colleagues and clients.
Factors that may be relevant to the question of what constitutes a reasonable refusal of a request for a flexible working arrangement include:
- The effect on the workplace and the employer’s business, including the financial impact, and the impact on efficiency, productivity and customer service;
- The inability to organise or allocate work among existing staff; and,
- The inability to recruit a replacement employee or the practicality or otherwise of the arrangements that may need to be put in place to accommodate the employee request.
Employees may request flexible working arrangements in certain situations. Most commonly a request will be made when employees are returning to work from a period of unpaid parental leave.
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Updated February 2022