Flexibility in the workplace allows employers and employees to make arrangements about working conditions that suit them.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 there are two formal ways flexibility can be used in the workplace:
1. Flexible working arrangements
Certain employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements.
2. Individual flexibility arrangements
Employers and employees can negotiate to change how certain terms in an award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement apply to them.
Who can request flexible arrangements?
Employees (other than casuals) who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months, if:
- they are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
- they are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
- they have a disability
- they are 55 or older
- they are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
- they provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.
What about casual employees?
Casual employees can make a request if:
1. they’ve been working for the same employer regularly and systematically for at least 12 months
2. there’s a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis.
What if I receive a request?
Receive the request in writing:
- Determine eligibility according to the criteria
- If Award covered – you must discuss the request with the employee first before responding in writing
- Respond in writing within 21 days either approving or refusing
- If you cannot meet the request, outline your reasons based on reasonable business grounds.
Can a request be refused?
Reasonable business grounds for refusal may include:
- the requested arrangements are too costly
- other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
- it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
- the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.
Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFA)
An IFA is a written agreement used by an employer and employee to change the effect of certain clauses in their award or registered agreement.
Suits the needs of both the employer and employee and either party can initiate the request.
Can’t be used to reduce or remove an employee’s entitlements.
An employer must ensure the employee is better off overall with the IFA, taking into account financial and non-financial benefits, as well as the employee’s personal circumstances.
When to use an IFA
In awards you can use an IFA to vary clauses about:
- arrangements for when work is performed, such as working hours
- overtime rates
- penalty rates
- leave loading.
Requests for IFAs
Do I have to agree to an IFA if requested?
Short answer: “No”
A request must be made properly and meet the BOOT (Better Off Overall Test).
If an IFA is not made properly it will still apply to the employee. However, the employer may receive a fine.