Managing flexible working arrangements in your business

Flexible working arrangements can benefit your business in many ways. For example, they often lead to increased productivity as employees are more focused, happy and committed to their job when they are able to achieve a work-life balance. Flexible working arrangements may also save you money by increasing efficiency (including use of workplace facilities), and reducing the costs of recruiting and inducting new employees.

However, some types of flexible working arrangements require extra planning and communication. For example, when an employee switches from standard full-time hours to a flexible arrangement, this can have a flow-on effect that requires you to make other changes to staffing. This may include assessing your team and the way your business is run, to ensure efficiency.

Types of flexible working arrangements include:

  • flexible working hours
  • a compressed working schedule
  • job share
  • telecommuting (e.g. working from home)
  • part-time work
  • special arrangements for mature-aged workers.

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This guide explains the different types of flexible working arrangements and the benefits of each. It also provides strategies and tips to help you get the most out of flexible working arrangements in your business.

As a small business owner or manager, you have legal obligations to provide flexible working arrangements in your workplace. These can include part-time work, compressed hours, job sharing, telecommuting and other options.

With the right balance, flexible working arrangements can be mutually beneficial for your business and its employees.

Research shows that companies and teams who offer flexible work have lower employee turnover, and higher employee satisfaction and productivity.

To effectively manage flexible working arrangements in your business, it's important to:

  • allow all employees to apply
  • adopt a specific policy so decisions are clear and consistent for all employees
  • balance flexibility with operational demand (i.e. staff needs with business needs)
  • make sure employees are not exceeding per day work hours under their award and accruing more time than they are allowed to
  • make sure all employees have equal access to training, development and promotional opportunities
  • manage staff performance based on output rather than working patterns.

This guide explains how to assess, implement and manage flexible working arrangements in your business, and includes a process to handle employee requests for flexibility. It also outlines employer obligations under relevant legislation.

Employer obligations for flexible working arrangements

You have obligations under industrial relations and anti-discrimination legislation to make flexible working arrangements available to all employees, except where job requirements make this unreasonable.

If you are unsure about your obligations and rights, visit the Fair Work Ombudsmanwebsite to help you meet the requirements of the award or agreement that covers your business.

Industrial relations laws

Your business must comply with the Australian Government's Fair Work Act 2009(Cwlth), which covers a range of flexible working arrangements. It also covers special leave requirements such as carer's leave, parental leave and bereavement leave.

Right to 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 (and are qualified for a disability support pension under the Social Security Act 1991)
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

An employer may only refuse the flexible working arrangements request on 'reasonable business grounds'.

Learn more about your employees' right to request flexible working arrangements.

Anti-discrimination laws

When assessing your employees' requests for flexible working arrangements, you must make sure that they are not unfairly disadvantaged by their personal circumstances.

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 promotes equal opportunity for everyone by protecting them from discrimination, and includes family responsibilities as a ground for discrimination.

Handling requests for flexible working arrangements

You should consider all requests for flexible working arrangements carefully.

The National Employment Standards (NES) entitle certain employees to ask for flexible working arrangements to help them with their personal circumstances.

Denying flexible working arrangements

Before denying an application for flexible working arrangements, make sure you have met your obligations under relevant legislation. Find out more about accepting or refusing a request for a flexible working arrangement.

If you decide to deny a request for flexible working arrangements, make sure you are able to clearly explain why (e.g. 'operational inconvenience'). It's also important to be consistent with your decisions so your employees can see that there is a fair and transparent process in place.

© The State of Queensland 2017

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