Australia family friendlier


busy pharmacist on phone

From 1 December, employees across all industries including pharmacy will have greater access to flexible work

The Fair Work Commission’s four-yearly review of modern awards – Family Friendly Work Arrangements resulted in the insertion of a model term in all modern awards regarding flexible work.

The Pharmacy Guild was among a number of stakeholders which provided a submission to FWC.

On 1 December 2018 and following, employers will need to make a genuine attempt to reach an agreement on flexible work arrangements, and provide detailed reasons for refusals.

Senior Employment Relations Adviser from Employsure, Michael Wilkinson, has offered some advice for both employers and employees.

“While workers don’t have an uninhibited right to their flexible work request, the new clause requires employers to detail any alternative arrangements they can provide and lets workers dispute whether employers have correctly followed the process,” he says.

“Let’s say you approach your boss with a request to work from home two days per week.

“Your boss can refuse your request, however they need to justify the reasonable business grounds, then state whether alternative options or a counteroffer is available.”

It is quite common for employers to reject flexible request because it is simply too costly to implement, he says.

This could be due to issues such as the cost of equipment and lost productivity, including the potential that the job simply cannot be done effectively from home.

“If an employee asks his or her boss to leave early twice a week for family commitments, employers need to consider how they will fill the gap.

“Is it necessary to fill the gap? Will significant change be required for the gap?

“If the gap needs to be filled, how much will it cost the business to fill such as advertising and training?” Wilkinson adds, “Employers also need to be aware of minimum engagement periods.”

Employers need to consider potential compromises and demonstrate the considerations, he says.

“Your boss can’t simply say no; your employer needs to attempt to find alternative arrangements such as covering one of those days as requested,” he said.

The new clause encourages businesses to be reasonable in the modern day of work life, he says.

“Good businesses generally take these steps anyway, on the basis they value their staff.

“For those businesses that aren’t currently flexible, they will need to bring their policies and practices into line from 1 December 2018.”

Mr Wilkinson advises employers to “discuss and confirm your offer in writing as best practice”.

He also reminds employees to play their part.

“If your boss says yes to your flexible work request, they are within their right to ensure your performance isn’t compromised.”

The Guild’s submission said there was “no cogent reason” why the provision should not extend to all the categories of employees set out by the FWC.

However, it noted that it had a “minor concern about the increased regulatory burden placed on small business to meet this provisional obligation in regards to providing a written response when refusing an employee’s request for family friendly working arrangements.”

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