Workers who have parental or carer responsibilities, or have a disability, or who are dealing with domestic violence, are entitled to request flexible working arrangements, according to industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims.
And employers have a legal obligation to implement those flexible working arrangements, unless they have a good reason not to do so.
“The Fair Work Act says that workers who have spent 12 months or more in steady employment are entitled to flexible working arrangements to accommodate certain changes to their personal circumstances,” Mr Heffernan said.
“But it’s an area of workplace law that employers and employees often know little about.
“For example, if your child has just started school, you might need to start your shift a little later, or finish a little earlier so you can drop them off or pick them up, and your boss needs to make that happen.”
What are flexible working arrangements?
Flexible Working Arrangements can involve a number of different things, like how, when and where you work.
Specifically, they can include:
- Changes to your hours of work, which may include reduced hours or different times that you clock in and out
- A shift in the patterns that you work, which means you may be eligible for split shifts or to job share with a co-worker
- A change in work location, so you can work from home or an alternative company work site or office
Who can request flexible working arrangements?
If you have worked for the same employer for at least twelve months, you can make a request for flexible working arrangements, if you:
- are the parent, or have responsibility to care for a child who is school aged or younger
- are a carer
- have a disability
- are 55 or older
- are experiencing family or domestic violence
Mr Heffernan also said if you are also to make a request for flexible working arrangements if you are recovering from a serious illness or injury.
“The types of injuries and illnesses are really unlimited, but may include things like broken bones, mental health issues, problems caused by medication, cancer treatment and many more,” he said.
Can an employer refuse a request for flexibile working arrangements?
Yes. An employer can refuse a request for flexible arrangements in some circumstances, and they are all related to something called “business grounds”.
Some examples include:
- It is flat out too costly
- It is too much trouble to change the arrangements of other staff, or even to employ more staff, to manage you
- The arrangements of other staff simply can’t be changed
- A change to your working arrangements could knock down productivity and adversely affect customer service
The bottom line
If you are going to make an application for a flexible working arrangement, you need to do it as soon as you are ready for work.
Your employer is required to tell you if they can implement the new arrangement within 21 days of your request.
Mr Heffernan says it can be difficult for some workplaces to make the necessary changes successfully.
“As you can imagine, implementing a flexible working arrangement into a streamlined workplace can be very challenging, because it may involve changing rosters, and consulting with other employees,” he said.
“At Fair Work Claims we can help both employers and employees develop a flexible working arrangement, because it is good business to keep experienced and capable staff, and if you have been a loyal worker, you deserve to be looked after.”
Mr Heffernan also advised anyone who has been sacked after requesting flexible working arrangements to seek urgent legal advice.
“If you have lost your job because you needed flexible arrangements, whether it was for illness, or parental or carer responsibilities, you may be entitled to compensation and maybe even reinstatement,” he said.
“We have defended many workers who were unfairly denied flexible working arrangements by taking up the fight with their employer and negotiating a fair settlement.”
If you have been dismissed from employment after requesting flexible working arrangements, you may be entitled to compensation or reinstatement.
For help, please call our team at Fair Work Claims on
1300 853 837
(You only have 21 days from dismissal to lodge a claim so don’t delay!)
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Fair Work Claims is a private consultancy and advocacy firm with no affiliation to any government agency, commission or tribunal.