Flexible working arrangements

Find out if you’re eligible to make a request for flexible working arrangements.

There are rules about how to make a request and how employers need to respond.

Summary

Some employees can request flexible working arrangements. Employees need to have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months.

Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to:

  • hours of work – for example, changes to start and finish times
  • patterns of work – for example, split shifts or job sharing
  • locations of work – for example, working from home.

Employees need to follow certain rules when requesting flexible working arrangements.

Employers need to follow certain rules when responding to these requests.

If a dispute about these requests can’t be resolved at the workplace, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) can help.

Video: Flexible working arrangements

Watch our short video to learn about:

  • who can request flexible working arrangements
  • how to make a request
  • how employers must respond to a request.

Who can request flexible working arrangements

Full-time and part-time employees can request flexible work arrangements if they’ve worked with the same employer for at least 12 months and they:

Casual employees

Casual employees can request flexible work arrangements if:

  • they meet one of the above criteria (such as being a person with disability, being a carer or pregnant)
  • they've been working for the same employer regularly and systematically for at least 12 months
  • there's a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis.

Example: Care for a school-aged child

Greg has been working full-time for his employer for over a year. He wants to start work at 10 am instead of 9 am so he can take his son to pre-school. He can request flexible working arrangements to help him care for his son.

Example: Employee with a disability

Ainesh is a lawyer working part-time. He has been working at his law firm for 1.5 years.

Ainesh has a disability. He experiences movement problems and muscle spasms. 

Ainesh talks to his employer, Melinda, about requesting flexible working arrangements. This request is to allow him more time to take breaks when he needs them and alter his start and finish times. 

Ainesh can request flexible working arrangements because he:

  • is a person with a disability
  • has been working with the same employer for more than a year.

Example: Employee is 55 or older

Shirley is 55 years old and works part-time, 2 days per week. Shirley is experiencing a range of menopausal symptoms that are affecting her ability to work long days. She wants to change her start and finish times, so that she can work the same number of hours over 3 days instead of 2 days.

She can request flexible working arrangements because she:

  • is 55 years or older
  • has been working with the same employer for more than a year.

Example: Employee is 55 or older

Hassan is 63 years old and works full-time, Monday to Friday. He has been with his employer for 5 years.

Hassan is planning to retire soon. When he retires, he wants to be actively involved in local community groups in his area for older people. 

He wants to work from home 3 days a week to attend lunchtime meetings with group members so that he can build relationships and networks with local community groups before he retires.

Hassan can request flexible working arrangements because he:

  • is 55 years or older
  • has been working with the same employer for more than a year.

Example: Pregnant casual employee

Riley is a casual employee who has been working for the same employer regularly and systematically for over a year. She wants to start later on Wednesday mornings to attend regular medical appointments during her pregnancy.

Riley can request these flexible working arrangements because:

  • she's pregnant
  • there’s a reasonable expectation of her continuing work with her employer on a regular and systematic basis.

Example: Immediate family member experiencing family and domestic violence

Sonja works part-time and wants to work from home every Friday to support her sister, Marta, with legal appointments. Marta has been experiencing family and domestic violence from an ex-partner.

Sonja can request flexible working arrangements because she:

  • has been working for the same employer for more than a year
  • is providing support and care to an immediately family member experiencing family and domestic violence.

How employees can request flexible working arrangements

Requests for flexible working arrangements have to:

  • be in writing
  • explain what changes are being asked for
  • explain the reasons for the requested change.

Employees can use our free templates and sample letters to prepare a written request. See Request for flexible working arrangements - Example letters.

What employers should do with a request

Responding to a request

Employers who get a request from an employee for flexible working arrangements need, to respond in writing within 21 days.

The response has to include whether the request is approved or refused. There are rules for refusing a request – see below for details.

Employers and employees can agree to working arrangements that are different from what the employee had originally requested. Where this happens, the employer needs to confirm the agreed changes in writing within 21 days of getting the employee’s request.

Refusing a request

An employer can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds and if they have:

  • discussed the request with the employee and genuinely tried to reach an agreement on alternative arrangements to accommodate the employee’s circumstances
  • considered the consequences for refusing the employee’s request.

Reasonable business grounds

Reasonable business grounds can include:

  • the requested arrangements are too costly
  • other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
  • it would be impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • the request:
    • is likely to result in a significant loss in efficiency or productivity, or
    • would have a significant negative impact on customer service.

The employer’s circumstances can be factored in when considering if the employer has reasonable business grounds for refusing a request. For example, the employer’s size and nature of the business.

Writing a refusal response

When an employer refuses a request, the written response needs to include:

  • the reasons for the refusal including an explanation of the grounds for refusing and how they apply to the request
  • other changes the employer is willing to make or a statement that there aren’t any changes to be made
  • information about getting help from the Fair Work Commission for disputes about flexible working arrangements.

Want to learn more about managing these requests? Take our free and short online training (under 25 minutes): Workplace flexibility online course.

Lodging a dispute with the Commission

If the employer and employee can’t resolve a dispute about flexible working arrangements, they can apply to the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) for help.

The Commission can hear disputes about flexible working arrangement requests and make orders to resolve disputes. This includes if the employer:

  • refuses an employee’s request
  • doesn’t respond to a request within 21 days.

The Commission will usually attempt to resolve the dispute using conciliation or mediation first. This is a less formal process involving discussions between an employer and employee to resolve the dispute.

If there isn’t a resolution, the Commission can arbitrate the dispute. This is a more formal process where employers and employees can present evidence and arguments. The Commission makes binding orders that employees and employers need to comply with.

Learn more about lodging a dispute and the process at Fair Work Commission – Flexible work and unpaid parental leave requests.

State and territory laws

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

Supporting flexible working arrangements

Best practice employers have processes in place for making and considering requests for flexible working arrangements. They also have processes for supporting flexible working arrangements once approved.

Our best practice guide on flexible working arrangements includes information on:

  • how to develop workplace policies
  • giving managers and employees training and information
  • creating a supportive culture
  • investing in technology to support flexible working arrangements.

Read our Flexible working arrangements best practice guide.

Example: Employer responds to job share request from employee with disability

Rami has been working full-time for his employer for over a year. To help manage his disability, he wants to reduce his hours and work 3 days per week. Rami enjoys his current job and would like to share it with another part-time employee, who will work 2 days a week.

Rami can request flexible working arrangements because:

  • he is a person with disability
  • he has worked with his employer for more than a year.

He speaks to his employer about job sharing and then sends an email to his employer that explains in writing what changes he is requesting and why.

Rami’s employer, Jane, responds in writing 2 days later to approve the request.

Jane meets with Rami to discuss whether Rami and the other employee would split up the duties of the role or share them. They also discuss how they will advertise for the new part-time role.

Once the new employee, Eliza, is hired, Jane meets with Rami and Eliza to discuss performance plans and how they will hand over work to each other.

Jane commits to regular meetings with Rami and Eliza to talk about their job sharing arrangement.

Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.65-66

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