The National Employment Standards do not require employers to grant employee requests for flexible work arrangements to care for a child (HRR#449). But Clayton Utz solicitor Millen Lo warns they will have to be able to demonstrate that they have considered any such request “to determine whether the arrangements can be in fact accommodated so that they reasonably suit the needs of the employee and the employer’s business needs.
Employers coming to grips with the right to request scheme should:
check if their existing policies and procedures are compliant and, if not, consider what changes should be made;
review any applicable industrial instruments to determine how they deal with workplace flexibility;
identify those parts of the business which might expect to receive requests from their employees and have in place strategies to manage workforce expectations. For example, identify positions or types of positions that might lend themselves to a reasonable business case for flexibility and those which do not;
decide what communications need to be made to the workforce about the scheme;
educate those who might have to respond to a request for flexibility and ensure they’re armed with adequate knowledge and have the skills to competently deal with such requests without exposing the organisation to risk; and
consider how disputes arising from a flexibility request will be be resolved.
Clayton Utz national workplace relations, employment and safety practice group head Joe Catanzariti warns employers could be subject to a court action, or an adverse action claim, under the new requirements.
Catanzariti is one of the authors of Fair Work: A user-friendly guide, published by Thomson Reuters, which is designed to sort through the complexities of the new IR laws. Click here for more details.