New flexible work laws now in effect

The Fair Work Commission recently announced important changes to flexible work for millions of workers across all industries. As of 1 December 2018, employers will need to make a genuine attempt to reach an agreement on flexible work arrangements and provide detailed reasons for refusals.

Senior Employment Relations Adviser from Employsure, Michael Wilkinson, says, “While workers don’t have an uninhibited right to their flexible work request, the new clause requires employers to detail any alternative arrangements they can provide and lets workers dispute whether employers have correctly followed the process.”

What this means in practical terms

Wilkinson says, “Let’s say you approach your boss with a request to work from home two days per week. Your boss can refuse your request however they need to justify the reasonable business grounds, then state whether alternative options or a counteroffer is available.”

It is quite common for employers to reject flexible request because it is simply too costly to implement because of things like the cost of equipment and lost productivity including the “potential that the job simply cannot be done effectively from home”.

“If an employee asks his or her boss to leave early twice a week for family commitments, employers need to consider how they will fill the gap. Is it necessary to fill the gap? Will significant change be required for the gap? If the gap needs to be filled, how much will it cost the business to fill such as advertising and training?” Wilkinson says. “Employers also need to be aware of minimum engagement periods.”

The employer needs to consider potential compromises and demonstrate the considerations.

“Your boss can’t simply say no; your employer needs to attempt to find alternative arrangements such as covering one of those days as requested,” he says.

A final word of advice

The new clause encourages businesses to be reasonable in the modern day of work life. Wilkinson said, “Good businesses generally take these steps anyway, on the basis they value their staff. For those businesses that aren’t currently flexible, they will need to bring their policies and practices into line from 1 December 2018.”

For employers, Wilkinson advises, “Discuss and confirm your offer in writing as best practice.”

He also reminds employees to play their part, “If your boss says yes to your flexible work request, they are within their right to ensure your performance isn’t compromised.”

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