The new Industrial Relations Laws, namely Fair Work Australia kicks in next week on 1 July 2009.
Labor has brought about a raft of changes that will require employers of all sizes to be more flexible in their working arrangements. The intention of the flexible work arrangements and generous parental leave provisions are to assist and support working parents, (particularly mothers) to balance work and family responsibilities.
For the first time, employees with children will have a legal entitlement to request flexibility in their work arrangements, while employers will have the right to refuse requests on ‘reasonable business grounds’, I think unless you are a small and specialized business, that the practical implications of this legislation is going to be more restrictive than many employers anticipate.
The onus will rest with the employer to demonstrate reasonable business grounds exist to support the refusal of a request to work flexible hours. Reasons such as, it does not suit the business, our roster, or our preference will not cut it. Employers will need to consider very carefully every request and put in writing the legitimate business reasons why they cannot honour the request.
So what happens next? Will the employee who has been denied these flexible working arrangements eventually leave your organsiation, or will they become disgruntled? What happens if the employer agrees to one employee’s request to working flexible hours but not another?
Is there a possibility that some employers may avoid employing particularly women with child care responsibilities due to the risk of having to restructure the business operations around requests for flexible working hours? Obviously this was not the original intention of the legislation, but I am concerned that this may be an unforeseen effect of the new laws.
What impact do you think the new flexible work arrangements will have on small business today?