The right to fair working hours and conditions
A maximum number of weekly hours is included in the National Employment Standards (NES). This rule applies to all employees covered by the national workplace relations system, regardless of any award, agreement, or contract.
What are the maximum weekly hours of work?
An employer must not request or require an employee to work more than the following hours of work in a week unless the additional hours are reasonable:
- for a full-time employee, 38 hours or
- for an employee other than a full-time employee, the lesser of:
- 38 hours
- the employee’s ordinary hours of work in a week.
Can I refuse to work additional hours?
Yes, you can if the additional hours are unreasonable. For a comprehensive list and clear understanding of the factors to consider when determining whether hours are reasonable or unreasonable, visit the government’s website.
The right to request flexible working arrangements
Who has the right to request flexible work in Australia?
Despite the common misconception that it’s only available to parents and carers, any employee can request flexible working arrangements. In fact, certain employees have a legal right to do so.
This entitlement belongs to employees who have worked with the employer for at least 12 continuous months. It also belongs to long-term casuals who have a “reasonable expectation” of continuing employment with the employer on a regular and systematic basis.
The government’s website also states that this request must be made for a certain set of reasons:
- The employee is a parent of or simply responsible for the care of a child who is of school age or younger
- The employee is a carer, as defined by the Carer Recognition Act 2010
- The employee has a disability
- The employee is 55 or older
- The employee is experiencing violence from a member of their family
- The employee is providing care or support to a member of their immediate family or household, who requires care or support because they are experiencing violence from their family
What is flexible working?
At its best, flexible working allows employees to work within hours, patterns, or locations that suit their needs. The result of flexible working is a healthy work-life balance, which means employees bring their best selves to work — wherever that may be.
Common types of flexible working arrangements:
- Remote working: performing a role at home or somewhere else offsite, such as a café or co-working space.
- Job sharing: when two or more employees share the hours of one full-time position.
- Flexitime: this can be simply setting their own start and finish times or having complete autonomy over how and when they complete their weekly workload.
- Part-time work: the most popular form of flexible working, these employees perform and are paid for fewer hours than those in full-time roles.
- Semester-time work: allows employees to take paid or unpaid leave during the school vacation (in addition to their normal paid time off).
- Compressed working hours: reallocating the working week into fewer but longer blocks of time, such as working longer hours Monday to Thursday in order to gain Friday off.
- Reduced working weeks: abandons the traditional five-day working week and sees employees work fewer days for the same pay. For example, WORK180 employees get every other Friday off — at full pay!
How to request flexible working arrangements?
An employee’s request for flexible working must be made in writing. It must also include clear details of the change required and a reason why. Equally, the employee must be provided with a written response within 21 days of the employer receiving their request.
Note: employers do have the right to refuse this request, but it must be due to reasonable business grounds. This reason must also be included in the written response to the employee.
To find more tips on how to ask for flexible working, create a free WORK180 account and download ‘The ultimate guide to negotiating flexible working conditions’.
Employers can also read our ultimate guide to offering best and next practice flexible working policies.