Flexible work rights bolstered

Changes from the Fair Work Commission have strengthened the right to request flexible work arrangements, including part-time work.

In the past, employers could deny requests for flexible work and not have their decision reviewed by the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission. The new provisions, introduced last year and now part of the National Employment Standards, expand the scope of employees who can make a request, and are intended to assist employees to have greater access to flexible work arrangements.

The onus is now on the employer to demonstrate why they are rejecting a worker’s request. Employers cannot simply answer ‘no’ and offer unsubstantiated reasons.

Employers must show why they cannot grant the request and what accommodations they can make. They must extensively consult and seek to reach agreement.

Employers must give a reason within 21 days of receiving an employee’s written request. If you believe your employer has rejected your request when they can reasonably accommodate it, you can now seek assistance from your union to notify the Fair Work Commission, who can determine the matter.

Flexible work requests can be made by pregnant workers, parents, or those with a responsibility for caring for children of school age or younger, people with disability, carers, staff who are 55 or older, anyone experiencing family and domestic violence, as well as workers who are caring for those experiencing family and domestic violence.

Member issues surrounding requests for flexible work have been a constant union concern over many years.

For too long, employers have responded to requests for flexible work by telling staff, “we don’t do that here”. But the new rights mean that’s no longer good enough.

If you’re experiencing any issues with your request for flexible work arrangements, please contact the union.

Lucy Meyer