Fair Work Act – changes affecting all employers

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Back in April we indicated that the Federal Government had proposed a number of amendments to the Fair Work Act, giving employees more rights in a number of different areas. The Senate has now passed these laws and some of these amendments already apply.

Flexible Working Hours

The main amendment is an expansion of the right to request flexible working hours. However, other amendments around consultation and workplace bullying also should be considered.

Previously, the right to request flexible hours was limited to parents with responsibility for:

  1. a child under school age; or
  2. a child with disability aged under 18.

Since 1 July 2013, the right to request flexible work arrangements has been extended to include:

  1. employees with caring responsibilities;
  2. employees who are parents of, or who have responsibility for the care of a child of school age;
  3. employees with a disability;
  4. mature-age employees (over 55); and
  5. workers experiencing family violence and workers providing personal care, support and assistance to a member of their immediate family or member of their household because they are experiencing family violence.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds and this will remain.

Employers have to reply in writing to an employee within 21 days advising whether they accept or refuse the request for flexible casino online working arrangements.

Guidance from the Government suggests that reasonable business grounds include when the new working arrangements:

  • are too expensive for the employer to implement;
  • would result in a significant loss in efficiency or productivity; or
  • would be likely to have a significant negative impact on customer service.

Other reasonable business grounds include:

  • there isn’t any capacity to change the work arrangements of other employees affected; or
  • that it would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees, or recruit new employees.

When assessing whether or not there are reasonable business grounds to refuse a request for flexible working arrangements, employers should look at:

  • how the change would affect the workplace’s finances, efficiency, productivity and customer service;
  • how easy it is for current staff to cover work;
  • how easy it is to find someone else to do the work; and
  • the arrangements needed to accommodate the employee’s request.

Other Proposed Amendments

Further changes to the Fair Work Act which are due to commence on 1 January 2014 include:

  1. employers must consult with employees about changes to regular rosters or ordinary work hours, taking into consideration their views on the effects of the changes (including family/carer responsibilities of employees);
  2. pregnant employees can transfer to a ‘safe job’ regardless of their period of service;
  3. employees suffering bullying in their workplace will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission  for an order that the bullying stop (rather than WorkCover); and
  4. the amount of concurrent unpaid parental leave that both parents can now take is extended to 8 weeks from the current 3 weeks.

Employers should have policies in place to deal with flexibility and ensure that all employees are treated fairly and consistently when requesting flexibility. It is imperative that any request for flexible working arrangements is responded to within the 21 day time frame.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have surrounding flexible working arrangements or any of the other items discussed above.

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