'How do I negotiate for flexible working hours?'

Ask Jo
career question

‘Hi Jo, I’m a working mum and would like to have more flexibility with my hours so I can work around my family commitments. What’s the best way to broach this with my boss? I don’t want him to doubt my commitment to work – I’ll do just as many hours but just want more flexibility.’

Anne, account manager, 35

career answer

Working flexible hours is becoming more and more common, and there are plenty of reasons why. Flexible hours have been shown to lead to greater job satisfaction, improved productivity and higher motivation and morale. Employers also get the added bonus of reduced staff turnover and absenteeism and retaining skilled staff.

Flexible working arrangements fall under the National Employment Standards (NES), which are governed by the Fair Work Act. In Australia, 99 per cent of employees are covered by this system, but State or Territory laws about flexible work arrangements apply if they give employees a better entitlement than the NES.

You first need to ensure that you have the right to ask for flexible work arrangements. Under NES rules, employees have the right to make a request if they:

  • Have been with their current employer for at least 12 months or are a casual employee who has been working regularly for the past 12 months (and is likely to continue working regularly)
  • Are a parent or guardian of a child who is school age or younger
  • Are a carer (as defined by the Care Recognition Act 2010)
  • Have a disability
  • Are 55 or older
  • Are experiencing family or domestic violence
  • Are caring for or supporting an immediate family or household member who requires care or support because of family or domestic violence

Step 1: Decide what arrangements would be suitable

You need to think carefully about what outcome you’re seeking. Are you looking to change your hours of work – for example, change your start or finish times, or work less hours overall? Are you after a job share arrangement or split shifts? Or do you want to change your work location and work from home? Whatever you decide, you need to approach your request professionally and do your research.

Step 2: Ask your employer in writing

You also need to put your request in writing. Provide your employer with information on your current work arrangements, outline the reasons why you want to change them and offer possible solutions. You may also want to highlight some of the benefits this will provide for both you and your employer. You could suggest a trial period to see if the new arrangement works and make a time to review down the track.

Remember that your employer will probably have to discuss your request with senior management or HR and it may take some time to get an answer. By law, your employer has to accept or refuse your request within 21 days and they can only refuse your request on the basis of ‘reasonable business grounds’.

For more information you can call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Jo Messer

Jo Messer is a Career Development Specialist who has many years of experience in supporting and guiding students and graduates of some of Australia’s most respected universities, as well as mature-aged clients, across all facets of their career. She is a Professional Member of CDAA and an active member of NAGCAS. Whether you have a specific question about how to achieve your career goal or something more general, Jo is available to provide you with up-to-date advice.

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