FAQs about flexibility at work
Here we give the answers to some commonly asked questions about flexibility at work.
- What is flexibility at work?
- Do flexible work arrangements have to be formal?
- Why should our workplace consider flexible work arrangement?
- Are flexible work arrangements just for women or people with children?
- As an employer, do I have to agree to flexible work arrangements requested by all employees?
- What should I do if an employee requests a flexible work arrangement?
- As a manager, how do I effectively manage employees who work flexibly?
What is flexibility at work?
Flexibility at work is about arrangements for where, when, and how work is done to satisfy both employee and employer needs. It can include flexible hours of work, compressed work weeks, time in lieu, telecommuting, part-time work, job-sharing, or a combination of these arrangements.
Do flexible work arrangements have to be formal?
Flexible work arrangements can be formal or informal, depending on individual circumstances and operational needs. Formal arrangements can benefit individuals and workplaces that need certainty and structure, whereas informal arrangements may be more suitable where employees and employers need to easily adapt to changing circumstances. Whether flexible work arrangements are formal or informal should be determined jointly by employees and employers.
Why should our workplace consider flexible work arrangements?
When implemented and managed well, flexible work arrangements can provide significant benefits to individuals, work teams, and organisations.
At an individual level, flexible work arrangements can help workers to:
- reduce psychological and physiological stress;
- feel in control and valued by their employer;
- improve work/life balance;
- lengthen the period of service with an employer, or in the workforce generally; and
- gain new skills or knowledge, if they are studying or job-sharing.
At an organisational level, flexible work arrangements can help the organisation to:
- position itself as an employer of choice for skilled individuals seeking flexible work arrangements;
- attract and retain a diverse and talented workforce;
- increase morale and staff satisfaction;
- create an inclusive work environment where individuals feel valued;
- reduce absenteeism;
- increase workforce participation and diversity;
- manage changing workforce and client demands;
- retain corporate knowledge and experience; and
- reduce workplace stress.
Are flexible work arrangements just for women or people with children?
No. Anyone can request flexible work arrangements. Employees may request flexibility at work for a variety of reasons, including to:
- pursue study
- transition to retirement
- engage in sports or other recreational activities
- care for children or ageing relatives
- focus on personal health and well-being
- undertake volunteering or charity work
As an employer, do I have to agree to flexible work arrangements requested by all employees?
If a reasonable request for flexible work arrangements is made because of a worker’s attribute (such as impairment, parental responsibilities, family responsibilities, religious belief etc) it may be unlawful discrimination if the employer refuses the request. The worker could make a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland.
Employees under the national workplace relations system (the Fair Work Act) are entitled to request flexible work arrangements to assist with their circumstances, if they have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months, and if they:
- have responsibility to care for child who is school aged for younger;
- are a carer under the Carer Recognition Act 2010 (Cth);
- have a disability and qualify for a disability support pension;
- are aged 55 or older;
- are experiencing domestic violence;
- provide care and support to a member of their household or immediate family, needed because of family or domestic violence.
Employers can only refuse these requests on reasonable business grounds. Access information about entitlements under the Fair Work Act.
Queensland Government and local government employees will be entitled to request flexible work arrangements for any reason, if the Industrial Relations Bill 2016 is passed by Parliament (this could occur in late 2016).
In addition, there are business benefits from adopting flexible work arrangements across your organisation. Each organisation is different, and will need to decide how to incorporate flexible work practices into their workplace.
However, an ‘If not, why not?’ approach to considering flexible work arrangements is the best starting point. When considering requests for flexible work arrangements, it is important to ensure that the requirements of the role and the organisation’s needs are considered, but also balanced with the needs of employees and assessed fairly and equitably across all roles.
What should I do if an employee requests a flexible work arrangement?
The Queensland Government has created a useful guide to considering requests for flexible work, which incorporates checklists to assess the request and implement the arrangements.
As a manager, how do I effectively manage employees who work flexibly?
Employees who work flexibly need to ensure that their work performance is not compromised, and the oversight and management of flexible work arrangements is a vital part of ensuring success. The Australian Institute of Management has produced a valuable resource for managers who need guidance on how to effectively manage in a flexible work environment – Managing in a flexible environment.