The NSWIR Commission has backed a decision to end longstanding a flexible work arrangement for two painters employed by the South Western Sydney Local Health District, ordering the two dads to resume working their standard hours of work.

The two male employees each cared for school-aged children and worked flexible hours so that they could collect their kids from school. They had a long standing arrangement with their employer to work from 6am to 2:30pm Monday to Friday, rather than the standard 7am to 3:30pm that applied to other maintenance staff.

The relevant policy stated that such arrangements would be approved for a maximum period of 12 months. Despite this, the arrangement had continued for more than eight years. The employer finally put a stop to it and notified them that a further extension of the flexible work arrangement would not be approved. The two workers sought to challenge this decision, but were unsuccessful.

What are your obligations?

Workplace flexibility can be a great way to improve staff retention and boost productivity. The result can be a happier, healthier workforce which can see real benefits flow to the business. But it is important to understand your legal obligations, and carefully consider the needs of the business, before approving any request for a flexible work arrangement.

Some workers will have the right to make a flexible work request. This includes anyone who is a parent of a child who is of school age or younger, a carer, a person with a disability and someone who is aged 55 years or older. Flexible work arrangements might include things like flexible start and finish times or job share arrangements.

If the person has the right to make a request for a flexible work arrangement, you will be legally obliged to consider the request and provide a response in writing within 21 days.

Can you refuse a request for flexible work?

You can refuse a request for a flexible work arrangement, even if the person has the right to make the request. But you can only do so on reasonable business grounds. This might include situations where it would be too costly to accommodate the request, or where there is no capacity to change the working arrangements of other staff members to accommodate the request.

You must provide the reasons for your refusal if you elect to refuse the request.

Importantly, there is no obligation on the company to re-approve a request on an ongoing basis. We therefore recommend that you specify a time to re-assess the request. This allows the company the opportunity to re-consider its position in a few months, taking into consideration the personal circumstances of the staff member and the needs of the business, which inevitably, change over time.

For more information on the recommendations and what this means for you, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.