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  • Writer's pictureNavneel Lal

Flexible Working Arrangements: The New Normal


ASF TAKEAWAYS: The paradigm shift to working from home has required business owners and decision makers to adapt to the increasingly popular flexible working arrangments, as both employers and employees see the benefits of having more flexibility in the workplace. But as shown by the recent IAG unfair dismissal case against Suzie Cheikho, it must be managed effectively for the desired outcomes to be achieved.


 


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FLEXIBLE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS?


Flexible working arrangements are becoming increasingly popular, as both employers and employees see the benefits of having more flexibility in the workplace.


For employers, flexible working arrangements can lead to a number of benefits, including:

  • Increased employee satisfaction: Employees who have flexible working arrangements are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, which can lead to increased productivity and reduced turnover.

  • Improved employee morale: Employees who have flexible working arrangements are more likely to be engaged and motivated, which can lead to a more positive work environment.

  • Reduced costs: Flexible working arrangements can help employers save money on things like office space, transportation, and childcare.

For employees, flexible working arrangements can lead to a number of benefits, including:

  • Improved work-life balance: Flexible working arrangements can help employees better balance their work and personal lives, which can lead to a happier and healthier workforce.

  • Increased productivity: Employees who have flexible working arrangements are more likely to be productive, as they are able to work when they are most productive.

  • Reduced stress: Employees who have flexible working arrangements are less likely to experience stress, which can lead to improved health and well-being.

 

THE EMPLOYERS RESPONSIBILITIES


Many workplaces have been able to reach some practical compromise when it comes to flexible working arrangements, but cases are starting to come before The Fair Work Commission where where an employee’s refusal to return to the office has resulted in a dismissal. As an employer, it is important to understand your legal obligations when it comes to flexible working arrangements.

In this blog post, we will discuss the following topics:

  • The Fair Work Act and flexible working arrangements

  • Reasonable business grounds for refusing a request for flexible working arrangements

  • How to manage flexible working arrangements in your workplace


The Fair Work Act and flexible working arrangements

The Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA) gives employees the right to request flexible working arrangements. This right applies to all employees, regardless of their length of service or the size of their employer.

To make a request for flexible working arrangements, an employee must meet the following criteria:

  • They must have been employed by their employer for at least 12 months.

  • They must have a genuine reason for requesting flexible working arrangements.

  • They must be able to demonstrate that the proposed flexible working arrangements will not have a negative impact on their employer's business.

If an employee meets these criteria, their employer must consider their request in good faith. The employer must also give the employee a written response within 21 days of receiving the request.


Reasonable business grounds for refusing a request for flexible working arrangements

There are a number of reasons why an employer may refuse a request for flexible working arrangements. However, these reasons must be reasonable. Some examples of reasonable business grounds for refusing a request include:

  • The proposed flexible working arrangements would be too costly for the employer.

  • There is no capacity to change the working arrangements of other employees to accommodate the proposed flexible working arrangements.

  • It would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees, or recruit new employees, to accommodate the proposed flexible working arrangements.

  • The proposed flexible working arrangements would be likely to result in significant loss of efficiency or productivity.

  • The proposed flexible working arrangements would be likely to have a significant negative impact on customer service.


How to manage flexible working arrangements in your workplace

If you are an employer, there are a number of things you can do to manage flexible working arrangements in your workplace. These include:

  • Developing a clear policy on flexible working arrangements.

  • Making sure all staff are aware of the policy and their rights.

  • Staying informed about your rights and responsibilities.

  • Encouraging all staff to talk to you about flexible arrangements – not just those who have a right to apply under the National Employment Standards.

  • Carefully considering the needs of your business and how you can meet them while accommodating your employees’ needs for flexibility.

  • Responding to all employee requests for a change in working arrangements in a timely manner (in writing within 21 days if your employee has a right to request under the Fair Work Act 2009).

  • Discussing requests with your employees so you fully understand their situation.

  • Considering alternatives if you can’t fully meet their request.

As an employer, you also have OHS obligations to your employees, including that they work in a safe environment. This is extended to employees working from home, which can make it impractical. We are aware of instances where the employer was advised to inspect the employees home office to ensure that the employer was not taking unnessary risks. Make sure you are up to date with government advice and that you have the appropriate COVID-safe plans for your workplace before you direct employees to return to the office.

 

Managing flexible working arrangements can be a challenge, but it is important to remember that these arrangements can benefit both employers and employees. By following the tips in this blog post, you can create a workplace that is flexible and accommodating for all employees.


  • Employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009. This means that employees can ask their employers to change their working hours, location, or other aspects of their job in order to better accommodate their personal needs.

  • Employers must consider requests for flexible working arrangements in good faith and give a written response within 21 days. This means that employers should not automatically refuse a request for flexible working arrangements, but should instead consider the employee's needs and the needs of the business.

  • There are a number of reasonable business grounds for refusing a request for flexible working arrangements. These include, but are not limited to, the cost of the arrangement, the impact on other employees, and the impact on the business's ability to operate.

  • Employers can benefit from flexible working arrangements by increasing employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. When employees are able to work in a way that suits their needs, they are more likely to be happy and productive. This can lead to a number of benefits for the business, including lower turnover rates and increased profits.

  • There are a number of things employers can do to manage flexible working arrangements in their workplace. These include developing a clear policy on flexible working arrangements, communicating with employees about the policy, and providing training to managers on how to manage flexible working arrangements.


The team at ASF are ready to support your business.



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