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Flexibility in the Workplace – what are the options?

Flexibility

While the Fair Work Act 2009 does provide an entitlement for certain groups of employees to request flexible working arrangements (such as parents, carers, victims of domestic violence, those over 55 years of age and those who have a disability), it is a benefit that is attractive to the broader workforce.

For the majority of employees, flexible work practices and policies which provide them with the ability to manage their work schedules to balance personal and family commitments, is a far more attractive entitlement than monetary rewards and is one of the most sought-after workplace benefits

While most Australian employers are well aware of the benefits that flexible work arrangements can provide, many may not know about the range of options that can be considered or which one/s would suit their workplace and employees.

Whether you are proactively looking to increase workplace flexibility or are considering an employee’s request flexible work request, we have outlined below some of the most common flexible working options that may be implemented:

Part-time

Part-time work is the original and most common form of flexible work. Working part-time generally involves an employee being engaged to perform less than 38 hours of work per week on a fixed schedule. 

Remote working

Remote working is fast becoming one of the most common flexible working arrangements offered in Australia. Remote working enables an employee to perform some (or potentially all) of their duties away from the traditional office location (such as working from home, a café or a hotel). 

Working remotely can result in improved productivity due to less work commuting time and fewer distractions. However, it is important to ensure communication arrangements between the employee and employer are effective and that employees who work away from the office are not excluded from important activities such as meetings and  training.

Flex-time

Flex-time enables employees to work flexible hours based on their personal and professional commitments. Flex-time can include:

  • remote working,
  • shift-swapping,
  • flexible start and finish times.

In most flex-time arrangements, there will be set core hours that an employee will be required to work, but outside of this, there is a degree of flexibility about when the remaining hours can be worked.

To be effective, flex-time does require a degree of autonomy, and is best suited for self-motivated and organised employees.

Compressed working weeks

A compressed working week is when an employee works the same number of contracted hours per week but across fewer days, allowing for an additional day off work. 

Compressed working hours can be an attractive option for employees who need to care for children, or those who have a long commute to work each day.

Job sharing

Similar to part-time work, job sharing is when two employees split the work of one full-time role (ie. two employees each work 2.5 days in the office with frequent handovers). Both employees may share all duties of the role or different tasks may be allocated to each employee.

Job sharing can be an attractive option for parents returning to work, however to work effectively, it is important to ensure that the employees participating in a job sharing arrangement have compatible working styles, have effective communication processes and that the role can be structured into clear tasks and responsibilities.

'Purchased' leave

 This arrangement enables employees to increase their annual leave entitlement in exchange for a pro rata reduction of remuneration. For example, an employee may ‘purchase’ an additional four weeks of paid leave which enables them to take eight weeks of annual leave each year instead of four. The employee will then receive payment for 48 weeks per year instead of 52.

An applicable Award or industrial agreement may set out additional provisions, such as rostered days off, which can provide for further flexibility in the workplace.

If you have any questions regarding flexible working arrangements, or your obligations should you receive a request for flexible working arrangements from an employee, please contact a member of our HR Advisory team on 1300 720 004 or via email [email protected]

Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such.

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