Australia Expands Flexible Working Entitlement

April 13, 2023

Flexible working arrangements have become increasingly popular in recent years, and with good reason. By allowing employees to work in a way that suits their individual needs and circumstances, flexible working arrangements can lead to increased job satisfaction, better work-life balance, and improved productivity.

Additionally, The COVID19 pandemic forced many companies to quickly transition to remote and hybrid working environments in order to continue operating. Many employers who had previously been hesitant to allow employees to work from home suddenly had no choice but to do so, and many found that their employees were just as productive, if not more so, when working remotely.

Which Australians are currently entitled to flexible working arrangements?

In Australia, some classes of employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009. The employees included are any employees (other than casual workers) who have worked with the same organization for more than 12 months. Addtionally, employees must meet one of the following criteria:

What are flexible working arrangements?

The Fair Work Ombudsman in Australia outlines several different types of flexible working arrangements that can be offered by employers. These include:

  1. Working from home: This allows employees to work remotely either all or some of the time, which can be particularly beneficial for employees who live far away from their workplace or who have caring responsibilities. This modality of working is know as Hybrid Working. We've examined why hybrid working is beneficial to both employers and employees here.
  2. Flexible working hours: This allows employees to work outside of the traditional 9-5 workday, for example, by starting and finishing work earlier or later than usual.
  3. Part-time work: This involves working less than the standard full-time hours, which are typically 38 hours per week in Australia.
  4. Job sharing: This involves two employees sharing the responsibilities of one full-time position, which can help to improve work-life balance for both employees.
  5. Compressed workweek: This involves working the same number of hours per week, but over fewer days, which can provide employees with an additional day off each week.
  6. Time off in lieu: This allows employees to take time off work in exchange for working additional hours, for example, by working extra hours one week and taking time off the following week.

How are the entitlements to flexible work being expanded?

The entitlement to request flexible work is being expended to include people who are pregnant, or who are experiencing a broadened definition of domestic violence.

Additionally, the new legislation provides greater powers to the Fair Work Commission to create processes and mediate disputes about flexible working requests.

When does this take place?

The Act has been passed and will come into affect on the 6th of June 2023.

What do employers need to do?

The best approach for employers is to make sure they have arrangements in place to allow employees to work flexible hours, or from flexible locations ahead of time. Employers have the right to refuse requests on "reasonable grounds" (see below), but these do not allow organisations to offer a blanket refusal. It is also important to note that for most office based businesses, they have already demonstrated they they can operate a hybrid working model, over the last few years.

Scenarios which can be considered reasonable grounds can include:

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