Carers: Seek Flexible Working Arrangements Post COVID-19 Pandemic

Carers: Seek Flexible Working Arrangements Post COVID-19 Pandemic

© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions

While the upsides to living in a pandemic environment are hard to list, there is one for employees who are also carers. It is the now well-established practice of working from home and the much accepted conversation with bosses around working flexible hours.

As I write, the whole of NSW is under stay-at-home orders and many employees around the country have been working from home for months on end.

This “new norm” is giving some work-life balance back to employees who are also carers. The removal of commuting time, attending conferences and after-hours work functions has given these employees more time to fulfil their role as primary carers for an ageing or disabled loved one.

If working from home is working for you and has had no impact on your work productivity, now is a good time to start thinking about how you might negotiate a flexible working arrangement with your boss post-pandemic.

 

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), there is no absolute right to flexible work arrangements if you ask for them.

However, if you have worked for the same employer for 12 months and fall within a certain category of employee, your employer must consider your request and can only refuse it on reasonable business grounds[1].

Those employees having the right to request flexible work arrangements are:

  • Parents or guardians of children of school age or younger;
  • Carers as defined under the Carer Recognition Act 2010 (Cth);
  • Employees with a disability;
  • Employees who are 55 years or older; and
  • Employees experiencing family or domestic violence, or who care for an immediate family member because of family or domestic violence.

 

While there is no set definition on what constitutes “flexible work”, commonly employees seek the flexibility to:

  • Work from home;
  • Change start and finish times; and/or
  • Job share or split shifts.

 

A request for flexible work arrangements should be made in writing to your boss. The letter must outline the changes requested and the reasons for the request. There are some handy template letters available on the Fair Work website[2].

For the best outcome, put yourself in the shoes of your employer when drafting your letter. Predict the obstacles and present the solutions in your letter. To be helpful to your employer, you could outline what your new working week would look like and suggest a six month trial.

Remember, your boss can refuse the request on reasonable business grounds. There is legal precedent in a relatively recent case[3], the Fair Work Commission found an employer had reasonable business grounds for refusing an employee’s request for flexible work arrangements.

In this case, the employee was a 24 year old medical receptionist who sought flexible working hours to care for her school-aged sister after the death of their mother.

Commissioner Hunt reinforced the point that while employees may have a right to request flexible working arrangements, they are “not entitled to demand” particular arrangements. 

The Commissioner found the employer had “repeatedly, reasonably and professionally corresponded” with the receptionist about what arrangements they could accommodate but that she chose not to accept the employer’s “reasonable and accommodating hours of work” on account of her personal circumstances.

Please be aware that my comments in this blog are given as guidance only and are no substitute for professional legal advice.


Remember, when to comes to finding care solutions, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.

- Contact Danielle - For An Impartial & Confidential Conversation

 

Resources

[1] Fair Work Ombudsman: Flexible Working Arrangements
[2] Fair Work Ombudsman: Flexible Working Arrangements "What To Do Next"
[3] Phillips v Integrated Medical Solutions Group Pty Ltd [2019] FWC 6225

 

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