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​‘We don’t do part-time here’: Flexible working arrangements

It’s that time of the year again.

In Term 3, schools start thinking about staffing arrangements for the next school year. If you are on parental leave and considering a flexible working arrangement when you return to work next year, now is the time to start those discussions with your employer.

In 2013, provisions of the Fair Work Act were expanded to provide parents returning to work after parental leave the right to request a change in working arrangements due to carer’s responsibilities. This has made the practice of returning to work on a part-time basis more accessible to parents across a number of educational settings.

It is important to note that it is your right to ask for part-time work but this does not automatically result in a successful return to part-time work. For this reason, it is important to allow enough time to sort out any potential impediments to establishing a successful part-time arrangement.

This is particularly relevant if you are hoping to return as a part-time teacher in a job-share arrangement.


Things you must do:

  • submit your request in writing.
  • set out the change you are seeking and your reasons for the change
  • the employer must respond to your request in writing within 21 days
  • the employer must tell you whether the request is agreed and, if not, the reasons for the refusal
  • the employer may only refuse the request on reasonable business grounds.


As a union member you should contact the IEU to discuss your request before contacting your employer. This will enable you to get advice specifically tailored to your situation.

The union will be able to advise on the entitlements under the Fair Work Act or contained in your workplace agreement, as well as directing you to any employer policy documents.

Before contacting your employer, you should consider:

  • When are you planning to return?
  • How many days are you available to return to work?
  • Are you seeking a temporary arrangement?
  • Are you looking for a job-share arrangement?

Just as every baby is a unique individual, every flexible work arrangement will be unique to the employee, their family situation and the individual workplace. As a result, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all response: which is why you should call the union before you finalise those ‘must’ items.


If seeking a job-share arrangement there are a number of things employers could suggest you do. The big one is that you could be asked to identify a suitable job-share partner.

Successful job shares quite often come down to the compatibility of the job-share partners. Basically, in some cases it will be easier to work with someone you already know and work with successfully.

This means if you have someone in mind to be your job-share partner, you could suggest them to your employer.

Provide details of how the job share will work, taking into consideration:

  • division of curriculum responsibilities, reporting, parent communication, etc
  • plans for communication with your partner
  • attendance at staff meetings, PD etc.

You can make a request for a flexible work arrangement at any time, not just after a period of parental leave. It could be used, for example, by staff who wish to care for ageing parents.

If you have any questions about applying for a flexible work arrangement, contact your organiser on 8202 8900. Further information about flexible work arrangements and other parental leave entitlements are available to members on our website:

Talk with colleagues

If you know of a colleague who may need advice about a flexible work arrangement down the track, you could have a word to them about the union’s new member policy.

Flexible work arrangements are not an automatic right, but ‘we don’t do part-time here’ is not reasonable business grounds for denying a request for a flexible work arrangement. Should a decision need to be challenged, union assistance will only be provided to existing members.

Donna Widdison