Flexible working arrangements for employees with disability

Published 25 October 2023

Learn how employees with disability can access flexible working arrangements.

What flexible work can look like

Employers and employees can agree to change standard working arrangements to help employees balance their work with their personal needs.

Under the Fair Work Act, employees with disability have the right to request flexible working arrangements if they meet certain criteria.

Flexible working arrangements can include changes to hours, patterns and locations for work, such as:

  • job sharing – for example, 2 part-time employees working one full-time role
  • working from home – for example, working some days in a workplace and some from home
  • moving start or finishing times – for example, starting work later to accommodate medical appointments or treatment plans.

Requesting flexible working arrangements

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

Casual employees with disability can also request flexible working arrangements if:

  • they’ve been working for the same employer regularly and systematically for at least 12 months
  • there's a reasonable expectation that they’ll continue working for the employer on a regular and systematic basis.

There are rules that apply for making, considering and responding to these requests. Find out more at Flexible working arrangements.

Example: Accessing working from home arrangements

Melanie is a business development manager for a real estate company. She works part-time.

Melanie lives with a condition that can affect her physical mobility and has trouble sitting for long periods.

Melanie talks to her employer, Steve, about requesting working from home arrangements. Melanie is aware that she is entitled to request flexible working arrangements because she:

  • lives with disability
  • she is a permanent employee and has worked for her employer for more than 12 months.

Melanie puts her request in writing and asks that she work 60% of her fortnight from home to help her manage her disability.

After Melanie explains this entitlement, Steve visits the fairwork.gov.au website to check what responsibilities he has an employer around these requests.

Steve learns that these are employee entitlements under the National Employment Standards and that Melanie meets the criteria to request flexible working arrangements.

After discussing her request and the company’s business requirements, Steve approves her request in writing.

Registered agreements

Some employees can be covered by a registered agreement, which can also have more generous terms on flexible working arrangements.

If you’re covered by one, it’s important to check yours to see if there’s any more generous rules or entitlements that might apply.

Search for a registered agreement on the Fair Work Commission – Find an agreement.

Supporting flexible working arrangements

Employers can use best practice tips to support employees in their flexible work. By adopting best practice initiatives, employers can achieve happier, fairer and more productive workplaces.

Our best practice guide includes information on:

  • developing flexible working arrangement 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: Supporting a job sharing arrangement

Elizabeth manages the customer service staff of an online shoe retailer.

The company has a flexible working arrangements policy. This policy explains the kinds of flexible working arrangements that are available to staff. It also explains how employees can make a request and how the company will respond, including the rules set out in the Fair Work Act.

2 part-time members of Elizabeth’s team, Jen and Ronnie, talk to Elizabeth about sharing a full-time role that will soon be available. Jen is living with disability and Ronnie has a child in primary school. They have both worked for the company for more than 12 months. Both are entitled to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act.

Elizabeth considers the request. She thinks Jen and Ronnie will work well together and this will be a beneficial arrangement for them and for the team. She responds to them in writing within 21 days, as required by the Fair Work Act.

Elizabeth then meets with Jen and Ronnie to plan for the job sharing arrangement. They discuss how they will split the tasks of the role and how they will hand over work to each other. It’s agreed that they will review the arrangement after 2 months and make any adjustments if they’re needed. They also talk about what they will do if either Jen or Ronnie is away.

Elizabeth lets other staff members at the company know about the arrangement. She also schedules a regular catch-up with Jen and Ronnie.

Why flexibility works for both employers and employees

Every workplace can enjoy the benefits of flexible working arrangements.

Between employers and employees, the positives can include:

  • greater job satisfaction
  • lower levels of workplace stress
  • lower absenteeism
  • increased productivity
  • increased ability to attract and retain skilled staff.

Discrimination in the workplace

It’s unlawful for an employer to take adverse action against an employee or potential employee because of their disability.

Adverse action against someone with disability could include treating them differently to other employees or changing their job to their disadvantage.

It’s also unlawful to discriminate against or harass an employee or potential employee under federal, state and territory anti-discrimination laws.

For more information, see Protection from discrimination at work.

More information

We have help, information and guidance for employees with disability as well as for employers and prospective employers. See Employees with disability.

IncludeAbility is an initiative of the Australian Human Rights Commission that supports:

  • people with disability looking for work
  • employers who want to create meaningful employment opportunities for employees with disability.

The Australian Human Rights Commission considers and accepts complaints of workplace discrimination and harassment covered under federal law, including complaints based on disability.

Workplace health and safety is also important for flexible working arrangements, such as working from home. Get guidance on workplace health and safety and working from home from Safe Work Australia – Working from home.