Consider a request for flexible work arrangements
From 1 March 2017, all employees can request flexible work arrangements under the Industrial Relations Act 2016. This is not an automatic right to the arrangement requested. The request must be made in writing and the employer has 21 days to response from receipt of request.
Flexible work arrangements can be established through:
- general approval that anyone can engage in a particular arrangement (such as flexible start times) through discussion with their supervisor
- ad hoc arrangements such as short-term telecommuting agreed between an employee and supervision (a conversation or an email is usually a sufficient record)
- documentation for ongoing or long-term job sharing—this is particularly important where salary is affected.
Flexibility can take many forms and be for many reasons—don’t discriminate.
- Come from the position of ‘how can we make this work?’
- Be creative and solutions focused.
- Understand the business outcomes.
- Promote ‘guilt-free’ attitude to requests.
- Cultivate an open and trusting environment.
- No one size fits all—everybody and every situation is different.
The 'Guide to considering requests for flexible work' is a comprehensive checklist to help assess and implement requests for flexible work arrangements.
Detail the request
- Is the request for flexible work arrangements in writing (the Industrial Relations Act 2016 requires requests for flexible work arrangements to be in writing, state the change and reasons for change)
- Is this a permanent or temporary arrangement?
- What is the proposed start and end date (if applicable)?
- Will there be a trial period, and how will this be assessed?
- How will the trial be assessed? What will be the success criteria?
- How does this affect the peak activity and demands in your work area? How will work continuity be maintained?
- What flexibility does the employee have to alter their work arrangement on an ad hoc basis to cover peak periods, attendance at meetings, training courses?
- It is the employee’s responsibility to consider the impact of the arrangement on their pay, taxation, superannuation, leave provisions, and other entitlements.
Assess the request
- What are the concerns, objections or barriers? How can these be addressed?
- Jobs may need to be redesigned and duties re-assessed to ensure they are suitable and achievable under the new flexible work arrangement. Where this occurs, job description forms or position statements may need to be amended accordingly.
- Ensure workload is appropriate to the new hours of work.
- Maintain confidentiality, particularly in relation to personal circumstances. Where discussion with others is required in order to assess a request, ensure only relevant details are disclosed and discussion is restricted to relevant parties only.
- Consider individual employee’s circumstances and reasons for their request. Are their needs likely to change over time?
- Consider employee’s skills and ability to manage their work role while undertaking a flexible work arrangement.
- For positions with supervisor responsibilities, consider strategies for ensuring adequate supervision levels are maintained.
- Ensure the request meets the requirements contained within their award and/or agreement.
- Refer to any agency policy or guidelines that apply to this request.
- Consider how the arrangement will be reviewed. When and how will the arrangement be measured? Set time frames for review.
Make the decision
- Assess requests on a case-by-case basis.
- Consider other flexible work arrangements currently in place and how these will interact with one-another and potential flow-on. Do not deny requests based on the possibility of potential flow-ons but be conscious of the impact this may have on other activities.
- Weigh up the benefits and challenges for the employee, work group and organisation associated with this flexible work practice.
- Have you involved the employee and other affected parties in your decision-making process and agreed on how the request will be determined?
- Have you spoken with human resources or other relevant experts to assist in making a decision?
- Have you fully and properly considered the request, in a timely manner? (you have 21 days to respond from receipt of request under the Industrial Relations Act 2016).
- Ensure your decision-making process fair, transparent and capable of review, and that you have documented your decision, the reasons for the decision, and all factors considered
- Advise the employee of the outcome of their request, both verbally and in writing, and included a full explanation for your decision
- If the original request is not appropriate, negotiate with the employee alternative arrangements that will suit the needs of all parties involved.
- If the request is denied, the employee should be made aware of any other procedures available to them in order to review the decision.
Document the agreement
If appropriate, prepare a suitable agreement to document the agreed arrangements which may include:
- Parties to the agreement.
- Duration (including start and end date, and trial period).
- Days and hours of work, and rostering details if appropriate.
- Communication arrangements (including communication with co-workers, supervisor, job share partner if applicable, out-of-hours contact etc).
- Changes to job role, duties or functions undertaken.
- Any requirements relating to supervisory responsibilities.
- Any issues related to operational requirements including dealings with clients.
- Requirements in relation to taking leave e.g. job share partners are sometimes asked to cover each other’s periods of leave and therefore cannot take leave at the same time.
- Review arrangements and criteria (refer to section on review for further details).
- Future checkpoints such as the process for either party to alter, discontinue, or extend the arrangement.
- Process for managing concerns or issues arising.
Implement the arrangement
- Notify human resources and other relevant parties, including co-workers and regular clients about the change in working arrangements.
- Ensure documentation is filed appropriately.
- Include arrangements on the email signature block.
- Review workplace health and safety requirements to ensure safe working conditions
- Can regular events, such as staff meetings be scheduled to maximise staff attendance?
- Ensure part-time employees are able to attend other events, such as training, planning days, social events.
- Ensure employees have equal access to training and career development opportunities and performance development processes.
- Discuss the new arrangement with co-workers. Address any concerns they may have and develop strategies to ensure other staff are not disadvantaged from this arrangement. Manage resistance and negative attitudes from co-workers that may affect the success of the arrangement.
- Encourage all staff to raise queries or concerns regarding flexible work arrangements as they arise and effectively deal with these issues without delay.
- Ensure workloads are managed and co-workers are not picking up additional work that they cannot manage.
- Put strategies in place to ensure effective communication with employees to keep them informed of any changes or important issues arising when they are not present.
Review the arrangement
- Assess the outcome of the arrangement against the agreed criteria.
- Consider what impact the flexible work arrangement had on budget, productivity, diversity, etc
- What problems or issues have been raised throughout the duration of the arrangement? How have these been rectified?
- How can arrangements be better supported?
- Following full evaluation and assessment, the future of the arrangement should be discussed between the parties involved and prior to the expiry of the arrangement.