Our flex appeal
The nine-to-five work day is becoming less of the norm, CareerOne Editor Cara Jenkin reports.
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,
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
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
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.
Kathy Laycock works part-time so she can care for daughters Jessica, 4, and Sophie, 1.