Workplace flexibility has become an essential component of any attraction and retention strategy. In fact, flexibility in the workplace is one of the key factors in maintaining an employee’s motivation, loyalty and commitment to their employer.
Certain employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Employers can only refuse these requests on reasonable business grounds. An example of a flexible working arrangement can include a change in location (e.g. working from home) or a change in hours of work (e.g. changes to start and finish times).
Under current law, employees who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they:
are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger;
are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010);
have a disability;
are 55 or older;
are experiencing family or domestic violence; or
provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.
An employer can only refuse a request for flexible working arrangements on reasonable business grounds. An example of a reasonable business ground is the requested arrangements are too costly or other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request.
Outside of the categories regulated by law, “Employers of Choice” are allowing other employees to alter their working arrangements either on an ad hoc basis or on a more permanent basis. Today is the age of the “digital worker” and half of Australia’s working population use the internet to work from home or on the go. Many employers recognise that there can be many benefits in an employee working from home e.g. more often than not workers who work from home don’t work a standard 9am to 5pm day but end up working longer hours and thus there is increased opportunities to get the work done.
Additionally, there are financial benefits to employers having employees work from home. Employers with a home workforce (or part home workforce) save money on overheads, desk space and absenteeism at work becomes a non-issue.
Given the law surrounding flexible working arrangements, it is therefore necessary for employers to implement an ongoing communication strategy to ensure employees are aware of workplace flexibility, and managers and staff know what is available and how a flexible work arrangement can be established.
The development of a flexible work strategy will contribute to an organisation’s “Employer Brand” and will greatly assist in the attraction and retention of staff.