Flexible work should be more widely available: ALP

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Flexible work should be more widely available: ALP

The Federal Government aims to increase the number of employees who can ask for flexible working arrangements; however, employers will still be able to refuse unreasonable requests.

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The Federal Government aims to increase the number of employees who can ask for flexible working arrangements; however, employers will still be able to refuse unreasonable requests.

The government’s response to the Fair Work Act review encompasses this push for more flexible work arrangements.

The right to ask for flexible hours or other working arrangements forms part of the National Employment Standards and currently only applies to some parents — see below. The government is planning to more clearly spell out that right in the Fair Work Act 2009.

The proposal for more flexibility includes:
  • workers who have care responsibilities
  • those over 55
  • workers with a disability
  • anyone who is experiencing domestic violence.
Limited enforcement powers, however, are a continuing concern to unions.

Support from the Greens
 
The Greens support the government proposals and argue they should go further and provide genuine enforcement powers.

Greens spokesman, Adam Bandt, says the Greens want laws strengthened so the industrial umpire can be brought in if a request for flexibility is refused.

‘The Greens are not interested in helping Labor use working parents and carers as a re-election prop,’ he said.

‘If the Government was serious about giving people better work–life balance, they’d get behind the Greens Bill to give parents and carers an enforceable right to flexible working arrangements.’

Current arrangements

Section 65 of the Fair Work Act provides a right for certain employees to request flexible working arrangements from their employer until their able-bodied child reaches school age. An employer can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds. Determining whether a business has reasonable business grounds for refusing a request for flexible working arrangements is not subject to third-party involvement (ie an employee does not have access to a designated tribunal if the employer refuses the employee’s request).

Examples of changes to working arrangements include changes in hours of work, changes in patterns of work, and changes in location of work.

More detail is availabe from WorkplaceInfo’s Employment Topic resource Flexible working arrangements — NES.
 
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