Our flex ap­peal

The nine-to-five work day is be­com­ing less of the norm, Ca­reerOne Edi­tor Cara Jenkin re­ports.

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WORK­ING hours are be­com­ing more flex­i­ble for staff to help them deal with their lives out­side of work.

Lat­est Aus­tralian Bureau of Statis­tics work­ing ar­range­ments data shows 60 per cent of work­ers have fixed start and fin­ish times each day, com­pared with 66 per cent in 1993 when the data was first com­piled.

To­day, 38 per cent of work­ers are able to work ex­tra hours up­front in their job to take time off at a later stage, com­pared with 36 per cent of work­ers 17 years ago.

About 71 per cent of em­ploy­ees only work on week­days, a de­cline of five per cent from 76 per cent of week­day work­ers in 1993.

Pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion and safety em­ploy­ees have the high­est pro­por­tion of staff (56 per cent) who choose to work ex­tra hours to take time off, fol­lowed by staff in the pro­fes­sional, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal ser­vices field (53 per cent).

Man­agers are the most likely to be able to take flexi-time at 52 per cent, while labour­ers are the least likely at 26 per cent.

The av­er­age full-time worker is work­ing 39.7 hours a week.

With new laws sup­port­ing par­ents of young and dis­abled chil­dren seek­ing flex­i­ble work­ing hours,

Ca­reerOne

Edi­tor all work­ers can seek to im­prove their work/life bal­ance.

ACara Jenkin SKING the boss to work flex­itime, tak­ing un­paid leave, and work­ing from home now are sup­ported by fed­eral law for many par­ents in the work­force. Na­tional em­ploy­ment stan­dards in­tro­duced by the Fed­eral Govern­ment this year al­low par­ents with chil­dren un­der school age and chil­dren with a dis­abil­ity aged un­der 18 the right to request flex­i­ble work­ing ar­range­ments.

Since the stan­dards came into ef­fect on Jan­uary 1, el­i­gi­ble par­ents have had the right to request – but not de­mand – that their em­ployer al­low them to work the hours they want, or they need, to care for their fam­ily.

Em­ploy­ers must re­spond within 21 days but can only refuse a request on ‘‘rea­son­able busi­ness grounds’’.

But Safe­Work SA Work Life Bal­ance Strat­egy man­ager Michelle Ho­gan says all work­ers can ap­proach their em­ployer to work out a flex­i­ble work­ing ar­range­ment, even if they are not the fo­cus of the new laws.

She says there are no hard-and-fast rules about what con­sti­tutes flex­i­ble work­ing ar­range­ments but part-time, flex­itime, job-shar­ing, time off in lieu, work­ing from home and pa­ter­nity leave ar­range­ments can all be ne­go­ti­ated.

‘‘There’s noth­ing stop­ping them at all and some em­ployee groups and in­di­vid­u­als have asked for all sorts of things and been suc­cess­ful,’’ she says.

‘‘If they don’t have chil­dren un­der school age or chil­dren with a dis­abil­ity, then if their request is re­fused, they don’t have any grounds on which to ap­peal.

‘‘How­ever, if the flex­i­ble work­ing ar­range­ment is ne­go­ti­ated as part of an en­ter­prise agree­ment, it then has the force of an award en­ti­tle­ment.’’ Flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments can in­clude:

This gives work­ers var­ied start and fin­ish times around core hours, does not im­pact on the num­ber of hours worked and adapts to the needs of the worker, work­place and busi­ness;

out­lines the op­tions

COM­PRESSED

hours or work­ing week: Work­ers com­plete a full-time job load by work­ing more hours each day but less days each week, to suit a busi­ness’s busy times and a worker’s per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties;

hours: These are an agreed num­ber of hours an em­ployee works in a full year, al­low­ing for time off dur­ing such times as school hol­i­days or to vol­un­teer; and

leave be­yond the min­i­mum stan­dards: This al­lows new fa­thers to spend time at home and shows the em­ployer’s sen­si­tiv­ity to their work­ers’ per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Em­ploy­ers can ben­e­fit by re­tain­ing staff who have skills in their area, hav­ing their work­force present at times of peak de­mand and hav­ing more pro­duc­tive work­ers.

Ms Ho­gan says the new right to request flex­i­ble work­ing ar­range­ments is limited to work­ers with chil­dren but is a vi­tal first step to pro­vide for the flex­i­bil­ity needed by all work­ers from time to time.

The age­ing pop­u­la­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, will mean more work­ers will have to care for older relatives.

The new em­ploy­ment stan­dards also pro­vide the min­i­mum con­di­tions and en­ti­tle­ments em­ploy­ers must give their em­ploy­ees, such as an­nual leave, carer’s leave and re­dun­dancy no­tice.

Safe­work SA is hold­ing a panel dis­cus­sion in Ade­laide on Thurs­day, June 17, to out­line how busi­nesses can re­spond to re­quests for flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments.

Reg­is­tra­tions can be made by call­ing 8207 2245.

Com­mer­cial law firm Fin­laysons be­lieves the en­ti­tle­ments work­ers have un­der the new em­ploy­ment stan­dards are largely ‘‘hol­low’’ be­cause Fair Work Aus­tralia has no power to in­ves­ti­gate al­leged breaches or im­pose penal­ties.

Work­place part­ner Grant Archer says em­ploy­ers may only refuse re­quests for flex­i­ble work­ing hours on ‘‘ rea­son­able busi­ness grounds’’ but the grounds are as yet un­de­fined

AN­NU­ALISED

PA­TER­NITY by the Fair Work Act. ‘‘It leaves both em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees stand­ing on shaky ground,’’ he says.

He says the leg­is­la­tion does not al­low Fair Work Aus­tralia to look be­hind the rea­sons for re­fus­ing a flex­i­ble work en­vi­ron­ment on ‘‘rea­son­able busi­ness grounds’’ and as­sess their va­lid­ity.

Ms Ho­gan says the new laws will en­cour­age more busi­nesses to dis­cuss what flex­i­ble op­tions may work for both the em­ployer and em­ployee.

Busi­nesses that are open to flex­i­ble ar­range­ments will at­tract and keep staff, she says.

Pic­ture: Michael Marschall

Kathy Lay­cock works part-time so she can care for daugh­ters Jes­sica, 4, and So­phie, 1.

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