Over the last 12 months, I have dealt with several disputes on behalf of members in relation to flexible work arrangements or advised members that they should consider putting in a flexible work arrangement request.
This is often an overlooked entitlement, which is a shame because it can assist people who need temporary assistance and flexibility with their work to manage their work and home life.
A flexible work arrangement is a temporary agreement between a worker and employer that allows for the conditions of your employment, as set out in your contract, to be modified to accommodate your needs. This can mean reducing your rostered hours, or days of availability, or anything reasonable that is agreed upon with the employer.
For example, I recently assisted a member to be moved to a different work location, so that he could be closer to his family, as he transitioned to retirement.
I advised another member, who works part-time, to put in a flexible work request to prevent her employer from rostering her outside of her available hours, which adversely impacted her childcaring arrangements.
In another instance, I assisted a member who had a very ill family member to obtain a flexible work arrangement so that they could care for them while they were sick, without the compounding fear of losing his job.
Under the Fair Work Act and our EAs, employees have the right to make a flexible work arrangement request, if they are:
- A parent or have caring responsibilities for a school aged child or younger;
- A carer;
- Have a disability;
- 55 or older;
- Experiencing family violence; or
- Providing care and support to a family or household member who is experiencing family violence.
To be eligible to make a flexible work arrangement request, you need fit into one of the above categories and have been employed continuously for at least 12 months.
An employer is only able to refuse a request on ‘reasonable business grounds’ and must provide a written response to a request within 21 days of the request being made. This is a broad exclusion; however, the company must specify how these grounds apply to the request. So, a refused request can also be challenged in Fair Work. This is something that the union can assist with. In my experience, most flexible work arrangement requests have been resolved informally, without having to go to Fair Work.
The union will support any member, who meets the above criteria, to obtain a flexible work arrangement to support a healthy work/life balance. The law understands that managing work responsibilities at certain points in your life can be a challenge and this legal entitlement is meant to provide some temporary supports to help alleviate those acute points of stress.
It’s important to support your colleagues and comrades when they make these requests or are already on a flexible work arrangement. These arrangements are in place to support people who need it. They are temporary arrangements for temporary challenges that are designed to be able to give workers some flexibility in times of need.
Making a request is easy. The Fair Work website contains a template letter which can be used to make your initial request. I would recommend getting in touch with your delegate or organiser if you need any assistance making the request. If your request is refused, please contact the union for support.
If you have any questions about flexible work arrangements or think this may assist you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.