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New Rules Around Flexible Work Arrangements

From 1st December 2018, the laws around flexible work arrangements have changed. This was due to a review by the Fair Work Commission earlier in the year.

It means that Award covered employees can make requests for flexible work more easily and employers need to make a genuine attempt to come to an agreement. If employers refuse the request, they need to have very sound business reasons to justify their refusal.

The definitions of what flexible work arrangements are and who is entitled to make these requests have not changed, you can read about that here https://www.hrgurus.com.au/flexible-work-arrangements

So, what has changed?

The most important change is that employers are required to discuss the request with the employee to genuinely try to reach an agreement on the change in working arrangements that will reasonably accommodate the employee’s circumstances before making a decision.  In the discussion the following needs to be considered:

  1. the needs of the employee arising from their circumstances;
  2. the consequences for the employee if changes in working arrangements are not made; and
  3. any reasonable business grounds for refusing the request.

Requests for flexible work arrangements from the employee needs to be in writing and employers need to then discuss the request with the employee to try to reach an agreement. The request must be responded to in writing outlining whether the request is accepted or declined within 21 days.

Requests can only be declined based on reasonable business grounds which include:

  • the requested changes are too costly
  • other employees’ schedules can’t be changed to accommodate the request
  • its impractical to change other employees’ schedules or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service

If you do refuse the request, then ensure your written response:

  1. includes the reasons for the refusal including the business ground or grounds and how the grounds apply;
  2. sets out whether there are any changes the employer can offer the employee; and
  3. sets out those changes in working arrangements that the employer can offer if any.

What’s the Wash Up from the Gurus?

Flexible work is predominantly a great thing, for employees and employers alike, and in reality, is how the future of work is going. If your workplace can accommodate it, then we highly recommend it because it attracts more diverse and loyal employees, however, there are a lot of workplaces and small businesses in which flexible work arrangements cannot be accommodated.

For those employers, the most important points to implement are; having a genuine consultation, being open and transparent, trying to reach a compromise and documenting and following a fair process.

If you are faced with flexible work requests in your business and don’t know what to do, please give us a call at HR Gurus where we one of our straight-talking experts can assist.

Written by resident HR Guru Jessy Warn.

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