Workers with various personal responsibilities are entitled to flexible working arrangements, according to experts.
As a result, employers are legally obliged to implement those flexible working arrangements, unless they have a good reason not to do so.
Employment law expert Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims says:
“The Fair Work Act entitles workers to flexible working arrangements to accommodate changes to their personal circumstances if they have spent more than 12-months in steady employment.
“However, it’s an area of workplace law that employers and employees 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.
“As a result, the law says 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.
- Changes to your hours of work, which may include reduced hours or different times that you clock on and off;
- 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; or
- 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 12-months, you can make a request for flexible working arrangements, if you:
- are a 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;
- or are experiencing family or domestic violence.
Mr Heffernan said workers recovering from a serious illness or injury can also request flexible working arrangements.
“The types of injuries and illnesses are unlimited,” he said.
“For example, broken bones, mental health issues, problems caused by medication, cancer treatment and so on.”
Can an employer refuse a request for flexible arrangements?
Yes. An employer can refuse a request for flexible arrangements in some circumstances.
However, they are all related to something called “business grounds”.
- It is too costly;
- It is too much trouble to change the arrangements of other staff, or even to employ more staff, to manage you; or
- 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.
Employers have 21-days to tell you if they can implement the new arrangement.
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 small or streamlined workplace can be very challenging,” he said.
“It may involve changing rosters, in addition to consulting with other employees.
“At Fair Work Claims, we can help both employers and employees develop a flexible working arrangement.
“After all, it is good business to keep experienced and capable staff, and furthermore, loyal workers deserve to be looked after.”
Workers sacked for requesting flexible working arrangements might have a discrimination claim and should seek urgent legal advice.
“If you have lost your job because you needed flexible arrangements, whether it was for illness, or for parental or carer responsibilities, you may be entitled to compensation and maybe even reinstatement,” Mr Heffernan said.
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