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Guide to Flexible Working

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Last editedJuly 20212 min read

The Fair Work Act of 2009 created a set of national employment standards covering everything from job security to union regulation and superannuation. Along with this package of standards is the right to flexible working. What does this mean for your business? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about flexible work arrangements.

What are flexible work arrangements?

Under the Fair Work Act, many employees who have been at their job for at least one year can request flexible work arrangements. This could include more flexible working hours, more convenient working locations, or a better shift pattern to suit their lifestyle.

Examples of flexible work arrangements

There’s a high degree of variation when it comes to what flexible work arrangements look like. Different arrangements suit different employees and workplaces, but here are a few examples of flexible working:

  • Part-time working hours

  • Casual work

  • Job sharing

  • Compressing a week’s hours into fewer days

  • Changes to starting and finishing times

  • Working remotely

  • Taking unpaid leave

  • Flexitime policies

  • Gradual increase or decrease in hours

What these examples have in common is that they provide a better work/life balance. For example, a worker who is due to retire soon might request a gradual decrease in hours worked or a transition to part-time working. An employee working on a part-time degree might request to work from home.

Eligibility for flexible working hours

So, who is legally eligible for flexible working hours? This may vary by state or territory, but according to the national Fair Work Act flexible working applies in a few distinct situations.

The employee has worked with you for at least 12 months and:

  • They are a carer

  • They have a disability

  • They are responsible for a school-aged or younger child

  • They are 55 or older

  • They are experiencing family or domestic violence

Casual employees can also request flexible work arrangements if they’ve been with you for at least 12 months and have a reasonable expectation of continuing this work.

Any employee interested in flexible working arrangements needs to submit a request in writing, explaining their reasoning for the request. They must also outline the changes they want to see.

It’s important to note that although the criteria above apply to the Fair Work Act, employees can still request flexibility even if they fall into any of these categories. As an employer, it would be up to you whether or not to grant the request.

How to handle a flexible working request

Once you’ve received a flexible working request in writing, you must respond with a written answer within 21 days. You should take both the employee and business needs into consideration before responding. Employers have the right to refuse on reasonable business grounds which include the following:

  • The request costs too much

  • The request would lead to a loss of productivity or income

  • You can’t change the working arrangements of other employees

How to create a flexible work arrangements policy

To avoid any confusion, it’s highly recommended to create your own flexible working policy. This helps ensure that management and employees are all on the same page when it comes to flexible working hours. Here’s what to outline in your flexible work arrangements policy:

  • Who is eligible for a request

  • The types of arrangements available

  • The procedure for making a request

  • How requests are evaluated

  • The procedure for responding to requests

  • How to monitor the arrangement

Finally, you should make clear in the flexible working policy how the arrangement will be recorded, whether it’s in an email or formal written document.

The benefits of a flexible working policy

Although you’re only legally obligated to offer flexible work arrangements to certain types of employees, it’s in everyone’s best interest to create a more flexible working environment. Offering a better work/life balance for employees can attract top talent, creating higher levels of job satisfaction and decreasing employee turnover.

Flexible working hours also decrease workplace stress and absentee levels, creating an atmosphere of mutual respect. For all these reasons, it’s well worth putting a generous policy into place.

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