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Flexibility verges on contortion

Employment Law

Employers take note: any employee with a child of school age or younger, or who is over 55 (among other categories) is entitled to request flexible working arrangements, and you may be obliged to agree (Section 65 of the Fair Work Act).

Flexible working arrangements include changes in hours of work, changes in patterns of work and changes in location of work.  Some common examples include:

1.    A request to work from home a few days per week;

2.    A request to finish early to pick kids up from school;

3.    A request to be re-located to an office closer to home;

4.    A request to work part-time.

If such a request is made by an employee who qualifies under this section, then as an employer you are obliged to grant the request, unless you can justify the refusal on reasonable business grounds to the employee in writing.

While there is no limitation to what can constitute ‘reasonable business grounds’, the following matters are prescribed by the act as being relevant (among others):

1. If the proposed working arrangements would be too costly;

2. If the proposed working arrangements would likely result in a significant loss of productivity;

3. If it would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other staff or to recruit new staff to accommodate the changes;

4. If the proposed working arrangements would have a significant negative impact on customer service.

In circumstances where technology makes it easier and easier to work remotely, it is becoming harder for employers to meet the ‘reasonable business grounds’ criteria for refusal.  If your employee makes such a request and you are not inclined to grant it due to the demands of the business, we can help you through the process of articulating the reason for this refusal.