Changes to flexible work arrangements comes into effect on 6 June 2023. As an employer, it’s crucial for you to stay informed about these changes to effectively navigate the evolving landscape of flexible work arrangements.
Eligibility and Obligations
Under the new amendments, the eligibility criteria for making requests for flexible arrangements have been expanded. Employee requests can be based on:
- Parents or individuals with caregiving responsibilities for school-aged or younger children.
- Carers under the Carer Recognition Act 2010.
- Individuals with disabilities.
- Employees aged 55 or older.
- Individuals experiencing family or domestic violence.
- Individuals providing care or support to a household or immediate family member affected by family or domestic violence.
To make a request, employees (excluding casual employees) must have been employed by the same employer for at least 12 months. For casual employees, they must be considered long-term casuals and have a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment on a regular and systematic basis.
Requesting Flexible Working Arrangements
Employees must submit their requests in writing, clearly outlining the details of the changes being requested and the reasons for the request.
In response, employers are to consider these requests promptly and thoroughly – e.g.
- Engage in a discussion with the employee regarding their request.
- Genuinely try to reach an agreement on the proposed working arrangements.
- Consider the consequences for the employee if the request is denied.
Employers may accept the request, propose alternative changes that accommodate the employee’s needs, or refuse the request.
However, if the request is declined, it must be supported by “reasonable business grounds.” These grounds may include financial implications, impact on efficiency and productivity, practicality of accommodating the changes within the existing workforce, or the need to recruit new employees.
Responding and Dispute Resolution
Whether the request is approved or declined, the employer must respond in writing within 21 days of the request for flexible working arrangements being received. In either case, there should also be a communication plan to advise other employees of the changes and their impact.
Where the request is approved, the response should include the changes that have been made to accommodate the request and any other information pertinent to the approval.
Where the request is refused, the response should provide a detailed explanation of the business grounds for refusal and how these grounds apply to the request. Additionally, the response should inform the employee about their right to apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for dispute resolution through conciliation, mediation, or arbitration.
Prior to 6 June 2023, employees had no recourse if their request was denied or ignored after 21 days.
The amendments will empower the FWC to resolve disputes about requests for flexible working arrangements where the dispute relates to a request for a flexible working arrangement and either the employer has refused the request or 21 days have passed since the employee made the request with no response received from the employer.
Initially, the FWC will attempt resolution through conciliation or mediation. If a resolution cannot be reached, the FWC may arbitrate the dispute and issue orders to grant the request. Employers who fail to comply with the FWC’s orders risk facing civil penalties under section 539 of the Act.
Preparing for the Changes
As an employer, it is crucial that you familiarise yourself with these amendments and review your current practices for responding to flexible working arrangement requests.
It is recommended you update your flexible work policies to ensure compliance with the new legislation that comes into effect on 6 June 2023.
The new flexible work arrangements bring significant changes for employers, and it is crucial to understand and comply with these changes.
If you require assistance or just want to talk through what the change might mean for your business, reach out to Akyra for an obligation-free conversation.
Akyra’s Key Takeaways
- From June 6, 2023, Fair Work Australia is expanding the eligibility criteria for flexible work arrangement requests to include caregivers, individuals with disabilities, employees aged 55 or older, and those experiencing or caring for family affected by domestic violence.
- Employees must have been with the same employer for at least 12 months to be eligible to request flexible work arrangements. Long-term casual employees may also request if there is an expectation of ongoing employment.
- Requests for flexible work arrangements must be in writing, with clear details about the changes and the reasons for the request. Employers are expected to engage in a dialogue, propose alternatives if needed, or refuse the request based on “reasonable business grounds”.
- Employers are obliged to respond to requests within 21 days, detailing the acceptance or refusal of the request. If refused, the response must include an explanation of the business grounds for the decision.
- The Fair Work Commission (FWC) will now have the authority to resolve disputes regarding flexible working arrangement requests, including cases where an employer has either refused the request or not responded within 21 days. FWC may even issue orders to grant the request, and non-compliant employers may face civil penalties.
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra is here to help address all your queries and concerns related to the new flexible work arrangements and how to effectively navigate these changes within your organisation. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.