So over the past two weeks you may have heard some rumblings about some potential changes to FWA, particularly around flexible working and rostering. If you haven’t, as an SME, you need to get across this as soon as possible. There are more details to follow and timings are vague, but things may move quickly – especially with an election date confirmed.
So what is the current situation? Well, currently, if you have a child under school age (up to 6 years old) or a child with a disability you can request flexible working.
What does this mean in reality? It means that an employee can request a change to start times & finishing times, job-share or part time arrangements, working more hours over fewer days or working additional hours to make up for time taken off.
So what’s changing?
- all parents of school age children or carers of elderly parents can request the right to flexible working
- mothers returning from parental leave can request part-time work
- employers cannot make late changes to rosters
- employees potentially also have the ‘right to request’ working-from-home arrangements
So what are the impacts for businesses, if this change goes through?
- further, fiscal pressure on businesses which are already stretched
- less flexibility; the beauty of casuals is the flexibility and the potential to extend a shift if your business is particularly busy
- another change to workplace employee relations which will impact structure, policy and practices – all that paperwork!
As an employer, you have the ‘right of refusal’ to this request – but don’t get too excited – you would be expected to actively compromise to get a solution and to refuse you need to be able to show financial hardship would be the end result for your business. Just a tip here – there is a defined legal process that needs to be followed if you receive one of these requests – around responding in writing within a specified timeframe.
At the moment, my sense is that employees are largely unaware of these rights but this is changing but, just wait until we have the election ads appealing to the worker vote…!
On the upside, my view is those SMEs that can implement a flexible workplace and workforce will be able to ‘win the war for talent’ and retract and retain the best employees. I would like to see more businesses be a little more creative in their approach and use a combination of permanent, casuals, temps and independent contractors. We need to be focused on our employee matters to ensure the best result for all.