Flexible working arrangements may seem like a natural progression in the business world amidst the changed norms of office and remote work, but knowing when you have the right to request flexible working arrangements can be tricky.
What Are Flexible Working Arrangements?
Simply put, flexible work arrangements are alternate arrangements or schedules from the traditional working day and week. Employees may choose a different work schedule to meet personal or family needs. Alternatively, employers may initiate various schedules to meet their customer’s needs.
Some employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements, such as changes to hours, patterns or locations of work.
Employees covered by an award also have some extra rights when asking for flexible working arrangements.
Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to:
- hours of work (for example, changes to start and finish times)
- patterns of work (for example, split shifts or job sharing)
- locations of work (for example, working from home).
Who Can Request Flexible Working Arrangements?
Employees (other than a casual employee) who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they:
- are the parent or have responsibility for the care of a child who is school-aged or younger
- are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
- have a disability
- are 55 or older
- are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
- provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.
Casual employees can make a request if:
- they’ve been working for the same employer regularly and systematically for at least 12 months
- there’s a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer regularly and systematically.
How Do Employees Request Flexible Working Arrangements?
Requests for flexible working arrangements have to:
- be in writing
- explain what changes are being asked for
- explain the reasons for the requested change.
Employers covered by an award must first discuss the request with their employee to try to reach an agreement about changes to the employee’s working conditions, taking into consideration:
- the needs of the employee
- consequences for the employee if changes in working arrangements aren’t made
- any reasonable business grounds for refusing the employee’s request.
All employers receiving a request must provide a written response within 21 days, outlining 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.
Reasonable business grounds can include:
- the requested arrangements are too costly
- other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
- it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
- the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or negatively impact customer service.