Reading time: 5 minutes

One of the many lessons the COVID-19 pandemic has taught business owners is the benefits of flexible work practices. Whether you allow employees to work from home or implement job-sharing arrangements, flexible work arrangements can take many forms and provide mutual benefits to your employees and your business. To learn more about flexible work arrangements, this article explains:

  • what a flexible work arrangement might look like; 
  • who is entitled to request a flexible arrangement; and 
  • some of the benefits of a flexible work arrangement.

Ultimately, if your employee makes a request for a flexible work arrangement, you should remain open to this possibility. After all, the arrangement can foster a happy and productive workplace. 

What Do Flexible Arrangements Look Like?

Flexible arrangements are, loosely speaking, anything that allows an employee to set their hours. Notably, these hours usually differ from the typical 9 am to 5 pm workday. 

Flexible working arrangements can include arrangements like:

  • staggered start and finish times;
  • part-time work;
  • job-sharing arrangements;
  • telecommuting;
  • hot desking where multiple workers use a single physical work station; 
  • compressed hours such as working longer days over four days and having a three day weekend;
  • expanded hours such as working three days over a five day week to allow flexibility for school drop off and pick up times; and
  • gradual returns to work after maternity or sick leave.

Importantly, every employee has a unique set of circumstances. As an employer, you should tailor flexible arrangements to individual situations.

Who is Entitled to Request a Flexible Work Arrangement? 

Certain employees have the right to ask for flexible work arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA) and the National Employment Standards (NES). These employers must have worked for your business for longer than 12 months in a permanent full or part-time capacity

Likewise, the following categories of people can ask for flexible work arrangements under the NES:

  • parents caring for children under school age;
  • parents who have children under the age of 18 with a disability;
  • carers;
  • employees with disabilities;
  • people 55 years or older; or
  • an employee experiencing (or caring for someone who has experienced) family violence.

Responding to a Request

Once you receive a request, you must provide your employee with a written response within 21 days. Moreover, your response should outline whether you approve or refuse the request. 

As mentioned above, you should remain open to the request. However, if you decide to refuse the request, you must do so on ‘reasonable business grounds.’ Reasonable business grounds include that:

  • it would be too costly to implement the arrangement;
  • your business lacks the capacity to accommodate the request;
  • it would be impractical to change the working conditions of others to accommodate the request; or
  • the request is likely to result in loss of productivity or negatively impact the business.

If you fail to provide a reasonable excuse for refusing your employee’s request, this could result in a dispute. In addition, you may have obligations under specific state and territory legislation relating to flexible work arrangements. 

For example, the Equal Opportunity Act in Victoria prohibits employers from unreasonably refusing to accommodate an employee’s responsibilities as a parent or carer. If you are unsure about your obligations, get in touch with an employment lawyer.

Do Flexible Arrangements Work?

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, flexible work promotes both women’s and men’s workforce participation, employee satisfaction and productivity. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the way people worked, flexible work arrangements are associated with:

  • greater employee wellbeing;
  • reduced exhaustion, burnout, and fatigue;
  • improved organisational productivity;
  • increased job satisfaction;
  • increased employee retention; 
  • more competitive job offerings to attract skilled staff;
  • an increased proportion of women in leadership roles; and
  • future-proofing the workplace for any potential disruptions. 

The Ultimate Guide to Hiring & Retaining Employees

Whether it’s your first hire or your fiftieth, this guide will help you understand the moving parts behind building a high-performing team.

Download Now

However, as noted by the Power of Flexibility Report, flexible work arrangements are most beneficial when you: 

  1. Make flexible arrangements the standard for every role.
  2. Encourage both women and men take up flexible arrangements
  3. Ensure your workplace fosters a healthy culture that supports flexible arrangements.
  4. Ensure that all members of the workplace are committed to implementing flexible arrangements, noting this includes flexible policies and new technologies which will allow remote work and telecommuting.

In this sense, flexible work arrangements are most effective when they become normalised in your workplace. 

Key Takeaways 

In short, flexible work arrangements are an agreement between an employer and employee to change standard working arrangements. Whilst a flexible working arrangement will differ from business to business, it can include:

  • working from home arrangements;
  • job-sharing; and 
  • flexible start and finish times. 

By law, an employee who has worked for your business for longer than 12 months in a permanent full or part-time capacity is entitled to request for a flexible work arrangement. You must respond to their request within 21 days of receiving the request.

If you need help responding to a request for a flexible working arrangement, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a flexible work arrangement?

Flexible work arrangements are an agreement between an employer and employee to change standard working arrangements. A flexible work arrangement can include working from home arrangements, job-sharing and flexible start and finish times.

Can I refuse a request?

You can only refuse a request if you have a reasonable business ground. For example, it would be too costly to put the arrangement in place, or your business lacks the capacity to accommodate the request.


Redundancies and Restructuring: Understanding Your Employer Obligations

Thursday 7 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

If you plan on making a role redundant, it is crucial that you understand your employer obligations. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Sponsor Foreign Workers For Your Tech Business

Wednesday 13 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Need web3 talent for your tech business? Consider sponsoring workers from overseas. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Advertising 101: Social Media, Influencers and the Law

Thursday 21 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how to promote your business on social media without breaking the law. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Structuring for Certainty in Uncertain Times

Tuesday 26 July | 12:00 - 12:45pm

Learn how to structure to weather storm and ensure you can take advantage of the “green shoots” opportunities arising on the other side of a recession.
Register Now

Playing for the Prize: How to Run Trade Promotions

Thursday 28 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Running a promotion with a prize? Your business has specific trade promotion obligations. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Web3 Essentials: Understanding SAFT Agreements

Tuesday 2 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how SAFT Agreements can help your Web3 business when raising capital. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Understanding Your Annual Franchise Update Obligations

Wednesday 3 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Franchisors must meet annual reporting obligations each October. Understand your legal requirements by registering for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Legal Essentials for Product Manufacturers

Thursday 11 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

As a product manufacturer, do you know your legal obligations if there is a product recall? Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards