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Part time request after maternity leave

If your domestic/household employee returns from maternity leave and asks to work part-time do you have to agree..?

It has been established in employment law that in this situation the employee can indeed ask for flexible working hours, perhaps on a transitional basis, but what are your rights as an employer to agree or refuse such a request and what is actually meant by “flexible working arrangements”?

Within this term as defined in the Fair Work Act 2009 are included,

  • hours of work (e.g. changes to start and finish times)
  • patterns of work (e.g. split shifts or job sharing)
  • locations of work (e.g. working from home).

However, returning new mothers are not the only employees who have such right. Also included are;

  • the parent, or those having the responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • those having a disability (and are qualified for a disability support pension under the Social Security Act 1991)
  • 55 or older
  • those experiencing family or domestic violence
  • those providing care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

An employee can request flexible working arrangements to assist them with these circumstances.

So if such a request is made, is there a set procedure which has to be followed? The answer is yes, and requests for flexible working arrangements have to:

  • be in writing
  • explain what changes are being asked for
  • explain the reasons for the request.

Once you, as the employer, have received this request, what do you have to do? Well, firstly you have to provide a written response within 21 days stating whether the request is granted or refused. If you refuse, you need to base such a request on “reasonable business grounds” and these grounds must be specified in the written response.

And what grounds can you cite?

They can include, for example, the requested arrangements are too costly. that the employees’ working arrangements cant be changed to accommodate the request or that it is impractical to change the other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request.

However, our advice as always is, before taking any action consult an appropriate professional for advice as to how to proceed.

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