You’ve done the (sexy) time and now you’re in charge of the outcome. Right? Wrong. The first correction needed here is that a flexible working arrangement is only attached to parenting. It can be attached to any caring role, including an elderly parent or a member of the family with a disability.
We do note that parenting is the key one here and relationship stutus – both personal and professional – have a direct and indirect impact on the person seeking a flexible arrangement at work. Let’s delve deeper and find out how. You might want to bunk down for this one, it is a big topic to cover and is layered with sexism on both sides, for females and males alike.
A flexible work arrangement is more than clocking off a little early to collect the kids or taking a longer lunch break so you can hit that yoga class and stay back a bit later to make up the time. It is much more and shouldn’t be taken advantage of or abused. For example, you need to be working for twelve months before you can request one but, keep in mind, if you start with flexibility in mind, an informal arrangement can be more easily arranged, put in writing and enforced, once you hit the twelve-month mark.
Those who access this type of arrangement tend to be some of our most vulnerable or are supporting our most vulnerable. Examples of arrangements are finishing work early on specific days for childcare purposes, early or late shift patterns to facilitate the school run, taking an elderly parent for medical procedures or supporting a family member with a disability. One of the more unrecognised forms of flexibility applies to victims of domestic and family violence (DFV) and those supporting victims of DFV.
OUR STANCE ON DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE: A GENDER ISSUE
Here at Pink Collar Workers we don’t take a gendered stance on family violence, or violence in an intimate setting. We take this opportunity to note both females and males can be victims of DFV and extend it further, to the reality there are higher rates in certain groups, such as same sex relationships, more specifically and the LGBTQQIAAP community, in general. It is important to realise one consistent factor:
There are historical and societal factors at play. We won’t go into these.
Be mindful of this, when we do discuss DFV, it is in the context of a victim and the perpetrator. There are instances where males, less likely to be believed, are less supported. There are cases where females, more likely to be believed, are better supported. The equal and direct opposite happens, for both genders. We have a victim and a perpetrator in this scenario. Both should be treated the respect when accessing workplace support for flexible working arrangements.
With that transparent declaration noted above, you can read more about who can seek flexible working arrangements at the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
- Casual employees
One big risk for casual employees is to have a flexible arrangement in place, usually with a considerate boss or manager. Then, BAM!
Under the assumption life stays still, there was some flexibility on offer. One new manager arrives. You disagree but, trust us, we’ve seen it happen and one new manager is all it takes. Inconsiderate, bordering on rude, they disagree with the status quo and upset the apple cart.
As for the manager, they’re using that power play under the ruse of:
‘No one gets special treatment here.’
Actually, they do, the National Employment Standards say so. We’ve seen it happen, more than even we want to admit. One way, simple and easy to address this:
Put it in writing, as soon as the agreement is made.
An informal check in can work wonders, if the matter later needs to be contested. We’ll put a brief example below but it is important you use your own language, otherwise they might think you’re setting them up.
Thank you for the chat today. I appreciate your understanding around my need for changes at work because [insert caring responsibility here] and will let you know if anything changes in the future.
[Insert sign off]
- Permanent employees
We cannot assume or guarantee that larger employers, multinational franchises and even the public sector will be able to provide workplace flexibility for all workers in every circumstance. A decent sized cafe chain requires a barista at 7am and they won’t accommodate a late start because Monday is day care day and the centre doesn’t open until 7am.
Before you try and run the discrimination, check out the reasonable business grounds on the Fair Work Ombudsman website. You may still have a legitimate case to run and it could be a discriminatory act, but you’ll save time being stuck on hold to find out.
Alternatively, with larger players, you can see about a transfer to a location that does accommodate your needs or to a new role that’ll be more fitting for your change in circumstances.
- Case Study
One worker, faced with the introduction of a kitchen overhaul – equipment, menu, an earlier start time and an additional hour per day – flipped it. Management and Human Resources could not see the problem. The worker, already late to collect her child from daycare was getting slugged with $30 a week late fees. It was a strict centre, a five minute delay, on Sydney city roads, she was put on an entirely different traffic trajectory. Her new finish time added thirty minutes and she’d be required to move her child to a centre that had longer hours but those nearby had no vacancies. The alternative, her husband, finished later than she did and was not an option.
We negotiated. Working together, with the affected worker and the manager, we found a site closer to home and had her transferred. Upset she was leaving long-standing work associates and familiarity, she made the choice that would decrease her time pressure and reduce the costs of late fees. She went on to prefer the new site, which was unexpected but a bonus outcome, and her caring needs were fixed via a negotiated outcome.
WHERE ARE OUR HELPERS AT?
For those with a caring role that is not associated with a school aged, able-bodied child, search online to find your nearest Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre to see what support is available. The caveat to able-bodied children includes those who fall under any diagnosis identified on the autism spectrum.
Flexible Working Arrangements.NATIONAL EMPLOYMENTx STANDARDS