By Amanda Swayn, Industrial Officer
One of the legislative changes brought in by the Secure Jobs Better Pay Act is to flexible work arrangements. These changes will commence from 6 June this year. The right to request flexible working arrangements will be expanded to include employees where they are pregnant, or where they or a member of their immediate family or household, experiences family or domestic violence.
The new flexible work laws introduce changes to employers’ obligations in relation to how they respond to a request. It will now be compulsory for the employer to discuss a request for flexible working arrangements with the Employee, genuinely attempt to reach an agreement and consider the consequences of a refusal for the employee.
This is a positive step given many members often report receiving a refusal letter with no prior discussion with management taking place prior. The new laws also expand what detail must be included in the written response letter in the event of a refusal.
A written response must now include:
• An explanation of the reasonable business grounds for refusing the request and how these grounds apply to the request.
• Other changes the employer is willing to make that would accommodate the employee’s circumstances or that says there aren’t any changes.
• Information about referring a dispute to the Fair Work Commission.
The 21-day time limit for an employer to undertake this process and provide an answer remains the same.
The RTBU have assisted many members with disputes regarding flexible work requests and be successful in negotiating suitable arrangements. These new legislative changes will strengthen our ability to achieve outcomes that support employees who require adjustments at work to manage personal circumstances.
There are significant benefits for workplaces when flexible work arrangements are managed well. Employees can achieve greater work-life balance, better health, lower childcare costs, and improved attendance.
Contrary to some common views, the right to request flexible work is available to a wide range of employees not just for mothers of young children. Fathers, over 55s, employees with disabilities, employees caring for elderly parents, those seeking a transition to retirement can all benefit from flexible arrangements for help with those periods in life where managing both work and home becomes challenging.
If you are considering requesting flexible work, speak to your local delegate or organiser for advice and support, or call the RTBU office.