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New rules on flexible work arrangements start on 1 December 2018

Changes to flexible work arrangements

From 1 December 2018, modern awards will include new rules about requests for flexible work arrangements. Before responding to a request from an eligible employee, an employer must first discuss the request with the employee to agree about a change to their working arrangements. Requests can only be refused on reasonable business grounds. If employers refuse a request, they need to provide the employee with a written response.

Examples of flexible work arrangements

Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to hours of work, work patterns such as split shifts or job sharing or where the work is done (for example, working from home).

Employees who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger; are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010); have a disability; are 55 or older; are experiencing family or domestic violence, or provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

For example a parent, who is an employee wants to start work at 10am instead of 9am so he can take his son to pre-school, can request flexible working arrangements to help him care for his son.

An employee who is 60 years old and wants to finish early on Wednesdays so she can volunteer at her local hospital can request flexible working arrangements because she is over 55 years old.

Casual employees and flexible working arrangements

Casual employees can make a request if they have been working for the same employer regularly and systematically for at least 12 months and there is a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis.

Making and responding to flexible working requests

Requests for flexible working arrangements must be in writing, explain what changes are being asked for and explain the reasons for the request.

Employers who receive a request must give a written response within 21 days saying whether the request is granted or refused. They can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds. If a request is refused the written response must include the reasons for the refusal.

Request can lead to discussions about other options

Employers need not choose between accepting or rejecting a request completely. Once a request has been made, employers and employees can discuss and negotiate an outcome that suits both of them.

What reasonable business grounds can see a request refused?

Reasonable business grounds can include:

  • the requested arrangement is too costly;
  • other employees’ working arrangements cannot be changed to accommodate the request;
  • it is impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request; or
  • the request would cause a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.

If a state or territory law provides an employee with a better entitlement to flexible working arrangements this entitlement will continue to apply.


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Please note that this article has been prepared by Margaret Miller, partner of Bell Legal Group, for information purposes only. It is not legal advice nor should it be relied upon as such.