Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today announced the Government would amend the Fair Work Act to broaden the right to request flexible working arrangements to more workers who need it.
“The independent panel that reviewed the Fair Work Act last year found the current provisions in the National Employment Standards for requesting flexible arrangements were working effectively, were being taken seriously by employers and employees and the vast majority of requests are being granted when they are made,” Mr Shorten said.
“However the Panel noted that many workers weren’t aware of their rights to request flexible work arrangements and recommended that more workers should be able to access the right.”
Currently, the right to request flexible hours is limited to parents with responsibility for a child under school age or a child with disability aged under 18.
Workers who can make right to request flexible work arrangements will be extended to include:
- workers with caring responsibilities;
- employees who are parents, or who have responsibility for the care of a child of school age;
- employees with disability;
- mature age employees; and
- workers experiencing family violence and workers providing personal care, support and assistance to a member of their immediate family or member of their household because they are experiencing family violence.
The Government will also amend the Fair Work Information Statement provided to every new employee to ensure they are aware of their rights to request flexible work arrangements.
Many submissions to the Fair Work Act Review argued for the right to request provisions to be extended.
This included the Australian Human Rights Commission, which called for the right to request flexibility to be extended to workers with children of all ages and to encompass all forms of family and carer responsibilities such as disability and elder care.
Currently, employers can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds and this will remain. The Government will provide further guidance to employers and employees about what constitutes ‘reasonable business grounds’, which was also raised in submissions to the Fair Work Act Review.
“It was a Labor Government that first introduced the right to request flexible work arrangements into Australia’s workplace laws. We did so because we are committed to helping modern Australian families balance their work and family life,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Government has carefully considered the Fair Work Act Review Panel’s findings, the submissions of stakeholders to the review and the strong advocacy of members of the Labor caucus, the union movement and the broader community.”
Providing these opportunities means that workers and employers have a framework for discussing employees’ needs for flexible work arrangements across a range of circumstances. It benefits employees who may otherwise feel they have no choice but to leave employment and benefits employers who retain skilled and experienced staff and benefits the broader economy and community by providing pathways for increased workforce participation and social inclusion for particular groups.
Whilst the requirement that every right to request be accompanied by a meeting as recommended by the Review Panel will not be introduced at this stage, the Government has committed to reviewing the operation of the expanded provisions to ensure the right to request operates in a meaningful way.
The Government will finalise the details of the new provisions in consultation with stakeholders.
Mr Shorten’s Media Contact: Jessica Lindell 0408 642 804