New laws promote workplace flexibility

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The Fair Work Commission has introduced important changes to flexible work that will affect millions of workers across all industries, including mining.

Employers are now required to offer any alternative arrangements to counter workers’ request for flexible work arrangements. They also need to provide the reasonable business grounds for refusing an employee’s request.

Businesses that aren’t currently flexible had until December 1 to bring their policies and practices in line.

According to Employsure senior employment relations adviser Michael Wilkinson, it is quite common for employers to reject requests for flexible arrangements.

Companies take into account cost of equipment, lost productivity and 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? Wilkinson said.

“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?”

Under the new laws, employers cannot simply reject a worker’s request but to attempt finding alternative arrangements such as covering one of those requested days.

Workers can dispute whether their employers have correctly followed the process.

Reminding that employees have a part to play, Wilkinson said, “If your boss says yes to your flexible work request, they are within their right to ensure your performance isn’t compromised.”