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Family Friendly Changes to the Fair Work Act

Employers need to be aware that there have been recent changes to the Fair Work Act. Whilst some changes took effect from 1 July 2013, others will not commence until 1 January 2014 and will be the subject of future bulletins.

The changes that commenced on 1 July 2013 are as follows:

Transfer to a safe job

Pregnant women can transfer to a safe job without needing to have 12 months of continuous service with the same employer.

Special maternity leave

Employees can take special maternity leave without it reducing the amount of unpaid parental leave they can take.

Employee couples and parental leave

Employee couples can now take up to 8 weeks of unpaid parental leave concurrently, increased from 3 weeks. Concurrent leave can now be taken in separate periods with each period being at least 2 weeks; however an employer can agree to shorter periods.

Right to request flexible working arrangements

More employees now have the right to request flexible working arrangements. 
Employees that can now request flexible working arrangements include:

  • Employees with caring responsibilities
  • Parents or guardians of children that are school age or younger
  • Employees with a disability
  • Employees who are 55 years or older
  • Employees who are experiencing family violence or who are caring or supporting a family or household member who is experiencing family violence

There is a non-exhaustive list of reasonable business grounds to refuse a request for flexible working arrangements, some of which include where the requested change:

  • Would be too expensive to implement
  • Would result in a significant loss in efficiency or productivity
  • Would likely have a significant negative impact on customer service
  • Would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees or recruit new employees to accommodate the requested changes; or
  • Where there is no capacity to change the work arrangements of other employees affected

To tell if there are reasonable business grounds to refuse a request for flexible working arrangements, employers should look at:

  • How the change would affect the workplace’s finances, efficiency, productivity and customer service
  • How easy it is for current staff to cover work
  • How easy it is to find someone else to do the work, and
  • The arrangements needed to accommodate the employee’s request.

If you have any questions about the changes to the Fair Work Act, feel free to contact Natasha Fletcher at WPL on 9861-4055.

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