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Can I Refuse A Request For Flexible Working Arrangement?


Under National Employment Standards, certain employees can request a flexible working arrangement. This arrangement can mean different start and finish times, different hours or patterns of work, or different work locations.

Before requesting flexible work arrangements, staff need to have been in their job for a minimum of 12 months. Flexible working arrangements can also be requested by casuals, as long as they also satisfy the 12 month of service requirement and have been employed on a ‘regular and systematic’ basis and they expect to continue work on a regular basis.

Flexibility can be requested for the following reasons;

  • A staff member is a carer or parent caring for a child young enough to be in school, or they have just come back to work following adoption or parental leave
  • They are over 55
  • The employee has a disability
  • The employee is experiencing family violence or needs to care for a victim of family violence who is also their immediate family or lives in their household

There is a process to request flexible working arrangements – staff have to make out the request in writing, and must have a written answer stating reasons for the decision within 3 weeks.

If your staff member fits into any of the above categories, and has made a written request, you can generally only refuse a flexible working arrangement request on ‘reasonable business grounds’.

You can refuse a request if,

  • It would cost too much for you to implement the flexible working arrangement
  • Other employees cannot change their work arrangements to fit in with the requested flexibility or it would not be practical to do this
  • It would not be practical to hire new staff
  • The impact on your business in terms of productivity, efficiency or customer service would be considerable

Before you refuse a request for a flexible working arrangement based on the above, you should be aware of any state legislation that applies to make sure you are not breaking the law. As well as this, for certain requests, such as carer requests, the Fair Work Act may go further than the National Employment Standards, and give better entitlements. You should also check the modern award, and any other contracts your employee is a party to. We’ve written more about working from home and flexible working arrangements here.

Justine is a legal consultant at Sprintlaw. She has experience in civil law and human rights law with a double degree in law and media production. Justine has an interest in intellectual property and employment law.

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