Developing a flexible working arrangements policy

Organisations leading the way in workplace gender equality have in place a policy that specifically supports flexible working arrangements for all employees. This briefing note provides guidance on the key features of a flexible working arrangements policy.

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What is a flexible working arrangements policy?

A formal policy on flexible working arrangements states the principles, guidelines and procedures related to flexible working arrangements and conditions that support employees’ personal choices. It provides an overall framework for complying with legal requirements as well as for the responsibility and accountability of both employer and employees.

Why have a flexible working arrangements policy?

A formal policy on flexible working arrangements clearly outlines the organisation’s stated intent and practices to provide a work environment that enables employees to optimise their contribution to the employer. It assists employers to meet basic legal obligations and supports people managers to make consistent and reliable decisions, which promotes a culture of fairness. It assists employees to manage their participation in paid work while providing clarity around entitlements and expectations. It benefits both the business and its employees.

It is recommended that organisations have a formal flexible working arrangements policy, which will assist organisation:

  • meet legal requirements
  • increase staff loyalty, satisfaction and commitment
  • improve workplace productivity
  • reduce absenteeism and staff turnover, resulting in lower recruitment and training costs
  • attract, retain and develop talents
  • be recognised as an employer of choice

Informal versus formal flexibility policy

Flexible working arrangements for individual employees can evolve in quite a casual way, particularly with a stable team with the same leader for a long period of time. Having informal arrangements in place around flexible working can be a very effective way of introducing flexibility to a team quickly and with the minimum amount of paperwork and administrative effort.

However, a change in leadership can create difficulties informal arrangements, particularly if a new leader has more traditional ideas around working and workplace structures. For this reason, it is worth considering how long a flexible work arrangement is expected to be in place when determining whether it should be formal or informal.

If it is a short-term arrangement for a few weeks or a couple of months, designed to meet a specific employee need, then an informal arrangement should be sufficient in most instances. If it is a long-term prospect, then a formal arrangement may be more beneficial to everyone. To encourage formal uptake of flexibility, it is important to streamline the process so that employees may easily apply for and record their flexible work arrangements.

Leading practice snapshot:

  • Go beyond minimum legal obligations and strive to implement initiatives that benefit both business and employees.
  • Consult to ensure the policy is tailored to the unique and specific needs of the employer and employees in a particular workplace.
  • Communicate the policy to managers, particularly managers with responsibility for recruitment, performance reviews and training and development decisions.
  • Communicate the policy to all employees, particularly during recruitment, performance reviews and training and development.
  • Ensure that the flexible working arrangements policy is consistently applied across the organisation.

Key features of a flexible working arrangements policy

Area Key features that may be included
Statement
  • an acknowledgement of the organisation’s philosophy on valuing an employee’s personal choices and complementing family-friendly specific policies by assisting employees achieve genuine balance
  • a statement of purpose that identifies benefits or outcomes of flexible working arrangements such as workforce efficiency, quality of life balance and cost savings
  • a statement that emphasises that flexible working arrangements are implemented to facilitate the accomplishment of work
  • a statement that employees working flexibly are treated no less favourably than any other employee and that flexible working is not a barrier to promotion or management responsibilities
Purpose
  • provide a level of autonomy and flexibility within work role to accommodate various priorities at work, home and in community:
    • vocational education while in paid work
    • caring, parenting and/or cultural responsibilities while in paid work
    • managing health/medical issues while in paid work
    • reduced working hours whilst phasing in or out of paid work
    • any other personal commitments
  • describe the process and procedures for establishing flexible working arrangements
Guideline and procedures

Definitions

  • clear definitions of key terms (e.g. flexible working, official worksite, alternative location) and options available (e.g. compressed hours, job-sharing, purchased leave)

Eligibility and exclusions

  • an outline of the conditions/exclusions applicable to employment status, tenure, to access flexible working arrangements
  • an outline of the conditions/exclusions applicable to variable working hours, to leave and other absences when working flexibly

Process

  • an outline of the process involved in identifying positions eligible for flexible working arrangements or aspect of working arrangements that could possibly be modified
  • an outline on developing and implementing effective consultation mechanisms which encourage cooperation and engagement between employees and the employer
  • an outline of the operational process and steps involved in applying, reviewing, accepting or rejecting application requests (e.g. application, approval levels, timeline for approval/denial, training requirements, written agreements) 
  • an outline of the operational process and steps involved in changing/modifying or terminating/withdrawing a flexible working arrangement
  • an outline of support, materials, and equipment provided
  • an outline of the specific requirements for record keeping, reporting and monitoring of use

An outline of the expectations imposed upon employees who have entered into a flexible working arrangement and their managers:

  • define the responsibilities of supervisors and managers of employees working flexibly
  • define the responsibilities of employees working flexibly (e.g. performance expectations and monitoring, communication protocols, occupational health and safety issues)

Performance and review

  • a statement confirming employees working flexibly access the same opportunities as other employees (e.g. work assignments, awards and recognition, development opportunities, promotions) and that the performance of employees working flexibly is evaluated consistent with the employer’s regular performance management system
  • a commitment to regularly review written agreement of the flexible working arrangements in place
  • an outline of the consequences of breaches of flexible working arrangements rules and conditions
References and resources
  • a reference to relevant governing legislation such as Fair Work Act 2009 and National Employment Standards
  • a reference to relevant internal policies (e.g. gender equality policy, family-friendly policies, IT and cybersecurity policies, occupational health and safety policy)

 

A printable version of the briefing note is available for downloand below: