Significant updates have been made to flexible work arrangements, expanding the eligibility for employees to request flexible working conditions. These updates specifically introduced rights for two new groups:

  • Employees affected by family or domestic violence, including those who provide care or support to a household or immediate family member affected by such circumstances.
  • Pregnant employees, enhancing their support during a critical period.

Employers are now obliged to review these requests promptly and thoroughly. This process involves engaging in discussions with the employee to genuinely attempt reaching a mutually agreeable solution. Employers must issue their decision in writing within 21 days of receiving the request.

Another pivotal development is the empowerment of both employers and employees to escalate unresolved disputes to the Fair Work Commission if a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached internally.

Case Study: Negotiating Workplace Flexibility

A recent case heard by the Fair Work Commission illustrates the complexities involved in negotiating flexible work arrangements. An employee sought to amend his working conditions to accommodate personal health needs and childcare responsibilities. His conditions were:

  • Childcare: The employee had care of his school-aged child every second week.
  • Health: He suffered from inflammatory bowel disease, necessitating immediate and frequent access to bathroom facilities.

Considering these requests, the employer suggested a compromise where the employee would work 20% of the time in-office one month and 40% the next. However, the employee declined this proposal.

The employer’s refusal was based on several factors:

  • Operational Requirements: The employer was contractually obligated to meet specific service metrics, including call and email response times, as the sole provider of salary packaging services for the South Australian Government.
  • Productivity Concerns: The employee was not meeting daily productivity targets.
  • Workplace Observation and Support: Physical presence in the office was deemed beneficial for direct observation and support.
  • Consistency and Fairness: The employer aimed to maintain consistency in flexible working arrangements across the organization.
  • Mental Health Considerations: The employee was reportedly struggling mentally, and the employer felt that adequate support could not be provided remotely.
  • Team Culture and Training: In-office presence was considered valuable for fostering team culture and facilitating training and discussions.

The Fair Work Commission supported the employer’s decision, highlighting the importance of face-to-face interactions for effective teamwork, monitoring, and, if necessary, coaching to enhance productivity and support.

Insights and Assistance

This case underscores that while employers are not obligated to approve every request for flexible working arrangements, there is a clear expectation for them to engage in fair and reasonable negotiations.

If you require guidance on navigating these new regulations and ensuring compliance while balancing operational needs, Business 360 is here to help. Contact us at 1300 287 360 or email For a confidential discussion with one of our team, scan or click below to schedule a consultation tailored to your specific needs.

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