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The second of the National Employment Standards (NES) provides that if you employ a parent who has responsibility for the care of a child that is under school age, or under 18 and has a disability, the parent may request you allow for a change in working arrangements to assist the parent to care for the child.

The request can only be made by the parent if s/he has completed at least 12 months of continuous service with you (and if they are a casual employee they would have a reasonable expectation of continuing employment with you). The request must be in writing and provide you with details of the change sought and of the reasons for the change. The Fair Work Act provides some examples of changes in working arrangements including changes in hours of work, changes in patterns of work and changes in location of work.

Your response must be in writing and provided to the parent within 21 days. Your response must state whether you grant or refuse the request. You may refuse the request only if you have reasonable business grounds for doing so, and your written response must include details of the reason for the refusal.

The Fair Work Act does not identify what may, or may not, comprise “reasonable business grounds” for refusing such a request, but I expect it will include, for example:

  • what effect the change might have on your workplace and business if you approved the request, including the financial impact of doing so and the impact on efficiency, productivity and customer service;
  • any inability you might have to organise work among existing staff; and
  • any inability you might have to recruit a replacement employee or the practicality or otherwise of the arrangements that you would need to be put in place to accommodate the parents’s request.

If you have any questions, please contact our Employment Law Team.

PS: Keep in mind that the National Employment Standards will not supercede any existing arrangements which you have with your employees and which provide your employees with a greater entitlement than the NES.

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