Australia strengthens flexible work rights with new workplace legislation

As part of the new legislation, flexible work will be made more accessible to employees who are parents or care givers, among others.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has revealed that the government’s “secure jobs, better pay” bill would include a stronger right to request flexible work, backed by binding Fair Work Commission arbitration if an employer refuses. 

The same bill implements Labour’s election commitments to improve gender pay equity and multi-employer bargaining, a union proposal the government signed up to at its September jobs and skills summit. Under current laws, employees can request for flexible work hours, but employers have no obligation to agree.

The changes would legally require employers to try to reach an agreement with eligible employees who request flexible work hours or arrangements, including proposing an alternative if the employee’s request cannot be accommodated on reasonable business grounds. 

If the parties cannot agree, the employees would be able to take the refusal to the commission to reach an agreement by conciliation and, where that fails, receive a binding decision.

READ: Increasing hybrid work transforms firms in Australia

The bill would tip the scales in favour of eligible employees, including care givers, parents with children of school age or younger, people with a disability, those aged 55 or older, and those experiencing or caring for someone experiencing domestic violence.

Burke said although many employers did the right thing, some flexible work requests “are unreasonably refused, and under our current laws, those workers have no right of review”, reported The Guardian.

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