Flexibility at work

Did you know that employees over 55 years old who have completed 12 months’ continuous service can request flexible work arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009? Today workers are increasingly working into their late 60s and 70s but many do not take advantage of the option to request flexible work arrangements. Many employers have options for mature-aged workers to work flexible hours, job-share arrangements or phased retirement options. 

A phased or transition to retirement means that workers are not pressured to stop working entirely once they reach a certain age but may be able to reduce hours or utilise leave entitlements one or more days per week. This can allow older workers to spend time with their families and grandchildren, pursue other hobbies or take time to relax. 

The rights and responsibilities for workers and their employers in requesting flexible work include:

  • Employees must put the request in writing, explain what changes are being asked for, and explain the reasons for the requested change.
  • Employers covered by an award must discuss the request with the employee, taking into consideration the needs of the employee, consequences for the employee if the changes are not made,  and any reasonable business grounds for refusing the employee’s request. 
  • All employers who receive a request for flexible work arrangements must provide a written response within 21 days, stating whether the request is approved or refused.
  • Employers can only refuse on reasonable business grounds and must state the reasons for the refusal in writing.

Employers who receive such requests may consider implementing trial periods to ensure flexible working arrangements are meeting the needs of the individual and the business, and where a request cannot be accommodated, can explore reasonable alternative options with the employee. Also, employers do not necessarily need to wait for a formal request for flexible work arrangements to offer and discuss these options with employees.

It’s important to emphasise that flexible work arrangements have benefits for both employees and employers: older workers can pass on the wealth of knowledge they have acquired over their careers and be mentors to their younger colleagues in a reduced role as they transition to retirement.