Flexible working arrangements
Flexibility in the workplace
Flexible working arrangements can offer both employers and employees a range of options for working arrangements or conditions that may suit either party while also enabling the business to operate ‘as usual’.
It ultimately serves benefit to both the employer and employee.
What are flexible working arrangements?
Flexible working can come cover a range of aspects and patterns of work, depending on the nature of employment, and the workplace. Examples include:
- the hours of work, e.g. starting and finishing times
- patterns of work, e.g. job sharing or splitting shifts
- locations of work, e.g. working from home vs working from the business location or a combination of both
Why offer flexible working arrangements?
Employers and employees may negotiate flexible arrangements for working, as long as employees are still receiving their minimum entitlements. These may be available to certain employees who have the right to request the arrangements, or through individual arrangements – negotiating to change how certain terms in an award, enterprise agreement, or other registered agreement may apply to them.
Providing a working environment that’s flexible can offer benefits to both employers and employees. The ability to offer flexibility will depend on the nature of work, how and where the work can be undertaken.
Advances in technology have facilitated the ability to work remotely, or work outside of the office with ease while still enabling access to information, files and communication with colleagues and clients.
Flexible working arrangements can help provide a positive work-life balance for employees while also improving business productivity and efficiency.
Benefits of flexible working arrangements
- Reduced operational costs or overheads – with less people working in an office location at any one time, there may be the ability to ‘hotdesk’ or use communal seating and desks – enabling a business to reduce its required office space
- Increased productivity – employees save time on their commute to and from work; they may be inclined to start work earlier, or finish later; and with less distraction at the ‘water cooler’, the volume of work processed may increase
- Increased creativity – working outside of the office may improve creativity, encouraging people to think outside the box
- Ease of management – in many instances, depending on the level of the employee or nature of the work, employees may be able to just ‘get on with the job’ and require less overseeing by their manager
- Improved well-being – it can help provide a positive work-life balance for employees, ultimately benefitting employers with improved productivity and efficiency
- Employee retention – employees feel valued and it can promote loyalty
- Attracting talent – there are many highly skilled and experienced workers who may have childcare responsibilities or other commitments which may limit their available hours of work to specific times of the day, or locations.
Who can request flexible working arrangements?
Employees who have “worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they:
- are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
- are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
- have a disability
- are 55 or older
- are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
- provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.”
Casual employees can request flexible working arrangements if they’ve been working for the same employer in a regular pattern of work for at least 12 months, or if there’s a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis.
Responding to flexible working requests
Some employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements, such as changes to hours, patterns or locations of work – this may be the case for permanent employees, or long-term casual employees.
The legislation and Awards prescribe some minimum requirements of the employment relationship which can’t be altered such as leave and superannuation entitlements. However, working arrangements such as start and finish times, shift organisation, or where an employee works can be varied through agreement between the employer and employee.
The following process must be followed:
- An employee makes a flexible work arrangement request
- The employer discusses the request with the worker in an effort to reasonably accommodate the employee’s circumstances
- The employer either agrees or refuses the request (if there are reasonable grounds)
- If the request is refused the employee is provided with a written response detailing the reasons the request was denied.
- If the request is agreed, the agreement is documented and communicated to the employee.
Talk to us
If you’d like to develop or review your existing employee policies and agreements to understand how you can implement flexible working arrangements for employees, talk to us.
We can help you with HR policies and procedures and employment agreements to ensure they meet the relevant requirements, or help you to develop new employment agreements and procedures to manage your HR obligations.