Everyone knows the phrase ‘work life balance’, but how many people actually feel like they are achieving it? These days we are all time poor. With everyone having so many commitments, it just doesn’t seem like there’s time left to get it all done. But that’s where flexible working arrangements can help.
As per the Fair Work Act 2009, if an employee has been with the same employer for at least 12 months and fits into one 6 specified categories, the employee has the right to request flexible working arrangements. These categories are:
- The employee is a parent, or has responsibility for the care of a child who is of school age or younger
- The employee is a carer (within the meaning of the carer recognition act 2010)
- The employee has a disability
- The employee is 55 or older
- The employee is experiencing violence from a member of the employee’s family or
- The employee provides care or support to a member of their immediate family or household who requires care or support because they are experiencing violence from the member’s family.
As an employer, there are plenty of positives to this option being available to your workers, too. Helping employees to meet their obligations outside of work will likely lead to greater job satisfaction, which in turn can be seen reflecting positively on staff retention and productivity. It can also help to decrease absenteeism, as the employee is less likely to need to take a day off to deal with outside issues.
Common flexible working arrangements include:
- Changed start and finish times
- Part time work or job sharing
- Working an increased number of hours per day, over fewer days
- Working from home.
The option to request flexible working arrangements is available after 12 months of service to all full or part time employees who fit into one of the listed categories. Long term casuals who have a reasonable expectation of ongoing work are also eligible.
As per the Fair Work Act, employers are obliged to give serious consideration to any request for flexible arrangements that they receive, and they have 21 days to reply. Employers also have the right to deny the request if it is deemed to not be ‘reasonable’. A list of some of the reasons that are considered to be reasonable business grounds for denial of a request can be found in the best practice guide available from the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
Any requests should be made formally in writing, including a description of what the proposed changes are and the reason for the request. The employer and employee should then discuss the matter to see if an agreement can be reached, before any decisions are made.
Flexible working arrangements can be good for everybody. Employees can organise their lives to suit their needs, while employers can reap the rewards of having a happier workforce. Template and example letters are available to assist with the process from the Fair Work Ombudsman website.