What are flexible working arrangements?

Parents often need the flexibility to adapt their work schedule to their child’s needs. While employers and employees may agree on changes, sometimes this is easier said than done.

A flexible working arrangement is an agreement between an employer and an employee to change the employee’s working arrangement to better accommodate the employee’s special circumstances. 

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) allows for certain employees, including parents, to request flexible working arrangements. An employee who has worked with their employer for at least 12 months can generally make a request. 

Arrangements requested might include changes to:

  • hours (e.g. start and finish times); 
  • patterns of work (e.g. job sharing); and
  • location (e.g. working from home).

Requests for flexible working arrangements should be in writing and set out the changes sought. An employer then has 21 days to provide a written response. This response should outline whether the request is approved or refused. 

Not all employers will respond to a request for flexible working arrangements appropriately. If this happens, the Fair Work Commission can sometimes help resolve a dispute.

Denying flexible working arrangements may amount to discrimination. Treating an employee adversely for making the request is also unlawful. 

It is important that employees can communicate openly with their employer about the flexibility they need as parents. If you need support with this, your union, a lawyer or a community legal service may be able to provide assistance.

For more information about flexible working arrangements, see: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/flexibility-in-the-workplace/flexible-working-arrangements

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