Policy

Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children - Policy

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1.  Purpose and Objectives

This policy outlines the eligibility, entitlements, provisions and conditions of flexible working arrangements available to staff with caring responsibilities for children.  The policy supplements the flexible working provisions contained in the National Employment Standards within the Fair Work Act 2009, associated provisions contained in The University of Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2010 – 2013 and the University’s policies and procedures for Flexitime and Voluntary Banked Time.

2.  Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Enterprise Agreement - The University of Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2010 – 2013

3.  Policy Scope/Coverage

This policy applies to all staff covered by the Enterprise Agreement.

4.  Policy Statement

The University recognises the difficulty some staff experience when balancing competing priorities that exist in their working and family lives.

Subject to the terms of this policy and associated procedure, University staff can request a change in working arrangements to assist the staff member to care for their child or children.

The University promotes the principles of equal opportunity and acts in accordance with applicable anti-discrimination laws in operation within Queensland and the Commonwealth of Australia.

Staff will not be disadvantaged by requesting or accessing flexible working arrangements in accordance with this policy. The University must not discontinue the employment of or fail to re-engage any staff member on the basis that they have requested or accessed flexible working arrangements.

5.  Eligibility

A staff member who is a parent, or has the responsibility for the care of a child can request a change in working arrangements to assist the staff member to care for the child if the child:

  1. is under school age; or
  2. is under eighteen and has a disability.

The staff member is not entitled to make the request unless:

  1. for staff other than casual staff – the staff member has completed at least twelve months of continuous service with the University immediately before making the request; or
  2. for a casual staff member – the staff member:
    1. is a long term casual staff member of the University immediately before making the request; and
    2. has a reasonable expectation of further ongoing employment by UQ on a regular and systematic basis.

Staff seeking flexible working arrangements in circumstances which fall outside of the above eligibility requirements should refer to the University’s Flexible Work Options for Staff webpage.

6.  Entitlement

The University will not unreasonably refuse a staff member’s request for flexible working arrangements and will only do so on reasonable business grounds.

7.  Flexible Working Arrangements

Flexible working arrangements available to eligible staff include but are not limited to those outlined below.

7.1 Pattern of work

7.1.1 Flexitime and Voluntary Banked Time

An eligible staff member can request to work Flexitime or Voluntary Banked Time in accordance with PPL 5.55.03.

7.1.2 Spread of hours

An eligible staff member can request a change to their standard spread of hours and/or work pattern contained in clause 71 of the Enterprise Agreement.

Additional payments including but not limited to overtime, on-call allowances, penalty rates and other loadings will only be payable to eligible staff who:

  1. are instructed to work; or
  2. required to be on-call; or
  3. are recalled to duty

outside the new agreed ordinary hours. Payment for such work will be subject to the requirements of the relevant policy.

7.2 Service fraction

An eligible staff member can request a variation to the number of hours required of their substantive position on a temporary or permanent basis. For example, a full-time staff member may apply to work three days per week on a continuing basis, or until the child reaches school age.

Where such a request is made for a temporary variation to the staff member’s service fraction, the duration of the variation sought must be specified.

7.2.1 Part-time working

Part-time employment must be at the same classification level but need not be the same work as the staff member’s substantive position. Staff have the right to return to their substantive position and classification level when reverting back from temporary part-time employment to full-time employment.

7.2.2 Job sharing

An eligible staff member can request to undertake a Job Sharing arrangement on a temporary or continuing basis in accordance with the University’s Job Sharing - Guidelines (PPL 5.30.05c).

7.3 Location

7.3.1 Campus

An eligible staff member can request to work from an alternative office space at another University campus.

7.3.2 Telecommuting

An eligible staff member can request to work from an alternative workplace including at their home in accordance with the University’s Telecommuting Policy and Procedures (PPL 5.43.05).

7.4 Transfer on return from Parental Leave

Where a staff member who is returning from a period of Parental Leave makes a request for part-time working arrangements which cannot be accommodated in their substantive position or Organisational Unit on reasonable business grounds, the University will make reasonable attempts to find a suitable alternative position for the staff member on either a continuing or a temporary basis.

The transfer search period will be for 25 working days with consideration of the Christmas/New Year period where applicable. The transfer search period would ordinarily be completed prior to the staff member returning to work unless otherwise agreed.

The transferee will not be required to compete against external or internal applicants (other than staff who are being redeployed or transferred pursuant to a relevant provision within the Enterprise Agreement) in open competition however they will be required to meet the requirements of the position including selection criteria; or be capable of meeting them within a three-month period.

The University will notify the staff member of possible transfer opportunities. The staff member must also notify Human Resources of positions for which they wish to be considered.

In circumstances where the University is unable to transfer the staff member and the request for part-time working arrangements cannot otherwise be met, the staff member will be expected to return to their substantive position.

On completion of a temporary transfer the staff member will either return to their substantive position or to a position at the same level with comparable duties.

Procedures

Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children - Procedures

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1.  Purpose and Objectives

This procedure outlines the process and steps for requesting flexible working arrangements available to staff with caring responsibilities for children.

This procedure enacts the Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children Policy and supplements the flexible working provisions contained in the National Employment Standards within the Fair Work Act 2009 and associated provisions contained in The University of Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2010 – 2013.

2.  Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Enterprise Agreement - The University of Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2010 – 2013

3.  Procedures Scope/Coverage

This procedure applies to all staff covered by the Enterprise Agreement who wish to request flexible working arrangements associated with the care for a child.

4.  Procedures Statement

Eligible staff can request flexible working arrangements in accordance with the eligibility requirements contained in the Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children Policy. 

5.  Application

5.1 Submission

Eligible staff must submit their request for flexible working arrangements in writing by setting out the details of the change sought and the reasons for the change.

It is recommended that staff read the Guidelines for Establishing Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children (PPL 5.43.08c) before submitting their request.

The application must be made using this form.

5.2 Authority

Requests for flexible working arrangements must be considered by the supervisor and approved by the head of the organisational unit.

The staff member who has made the request must receive a written response from the head of their organisational unit within twenty-one (21) days of receipt of the request.

The response must state whether the request has been granted or refused.

A request for flexible working arrangements can only be refused if there are reasonable business grounds for doing so. If the head of the organisational unit considers that the request cannot be accommodated then consultation with the Director, Human Resources must occur before refusing the request.

If the determination is to refuse the request following consultation with the Director, Human Resources then details of the reasons for refusal must be included in the response to the staff member.

5.3 Formalising the arrangement

Flexible working arrangements agreed between the staff member and the University must be formalised by completion of the Flexible Working Arrangement Form and contractual variations as appropriate including details of the duration of the arrangement and any review period(s).

Guidelines

Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children - Guidelines

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1.  Purpose and Objectives

This guideline is intended to assist staff and supervisors to establish agreed flexible working arrangements made in accordance with the Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children Policy.

2.  Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Enterprise Agreement - The University of Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2010 – 2013

Policy - Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children Policy         

Procedures - Flexible Working Arrangements for Staff with Caring Responsibilities for Children Procedures      

3.  Guidelines Scope/Coverage

This guideline applies to staff who wish to make a request for flexible working arrangements in accordance with the Policy and Procedures, and for supervisors and organisational heads who are considering a request for flexible working arrangements made by a staff member.

4.  Guidelines Statement

The University is a large employer and wherever possible should accommodate reasonable flexible working arrangements requested by staff.

5.  Guidelines for Staff

To give a request for flexible working arrangements a good chance of success, try to ensure that the arrangement sought is reasonable.

Consider responsibilities at work and at home and where possible make the case for an arrangement which benefits all concerned. Anticipate operational and workload concerns, and demonstrate how these requirements can be satisfied. Where possible indicate how the proposed changes (e.g. absence at certain times) might result in other benefits such as opening career opportunities for others by expanding their roles and skill-sets.

5.1 Getting started

Identify the need to balance work and life and prepare discussion points thoroughly.

Explore the possibilities, think through the issues and decide a course of action.

Recognise, acknowledge and address potential operational concerns, such as continuity in the job or a shortage of specialist skills at critical times.

5.2 Drafting a request

State the purpose of the request and how it fits within the organisational unit and within the University’s Policy and Procedures. Clarify the basics for example, whether the change sought is intended to be temporary or continuing.

Outline the arrangements sought and how they might work. Consider workloads, effects on staffing levels and potential effects on the team. Think about matters such as:

  • potential cost savings and benefits associated with retaining  skills and knowledge instead of recruiting new staff;
  • a work schedule, e.g. proposed hours, days, weeks to be worked;
  • timeline and/or trial period for the new arrangement sought;
  • flexibility to accommodate peak periods or other unexpected workplace needs and intentions related to attendance at critical meetings, conferences, training as part of an overall commitment to the position and career;
  • contingency plans for various scenarios (e.g. to cover a job-sharing arrangement when in the event that a job-sharer is ill or on leave);
  • plans for establishing and maintaining open lines of communication with the organisational unit to cover knowledge gaps on both sides during any absence (e.g. as a part-time worker or while staff are taking leave);
  • potential impacts/concerns and possible solutions;
  • positive outcomes (such as quality outputs, good workplace morale, potential career opportunities for others); and
  • plans for evaluating and amending the arrangement (if appropriate). This might include evaluation after a trial period. Outline performance goals and ways to measure those (e.g. meeting deadlines, gathering feedback from clients and work colleagues) as well as the overall success of the arrangement.

Summarise key points and anticipated outcomes, and strengthen as appropriate with any advantages to the organisational unit.

5.3 Meeting with the supervisor

A supervisor may request a meeting with the staff member to discuss a flexible working request. Alternatively, the staff member may request a meeting with the supervisor to talk to their request for flexible working arrangements and explain it in more detail.

If so, prepare for the meeting by practising putting forward ideas, anticipating objections and thinking about appropriate responses.

During the meeting, focus on collaborative problem-solving, seek and consider other viewpoints that may be expressed by the supervisor.

At the meeting, have pen and paper ready to note relevant issues and clarify notes taken to make sure they accurately reflect the discussion and any action points as necessary.

6.  Guidelines for Supervisors

Effective supervisors encourage all staff to explore and consider options which help balance responsibilities at work and at home.

6.1 Considering a request

Flexibility works both ways. Remember that the University and the organisational unit stand to gain through opportunities to attract and retain staff and their expertise, cut the costs of recruitment and absenteeism and boost morale, loyalty, commitment and productivity.

These are the key steps for considering a request for flexible working arrangements:

  • Acknowledge receipt of the request and indicate that a response will be provided to the staff member in writing within 21 days.
  • Be familiar with the staff member’s position description to be certain of position duties and accountabilities. It may also be appropriate to review the position descriptions of other team members to ensure the arrangement sought can be managed, taking account of the organisational unit’s overall needs and goals.
  • Understand the formalised flexible working options available to University staff.
  • If the arrangement sought poses difficulties for the effective operation of the organisational unit, consider alternatives for discussion.
  • In cases where a request seems impossible to meet, yet refusal could be seen as unfair, discuss the issues with the Equity Office, an HR Manager or HR Consultant.
  • Consider examples of flexible working arrangements that work successfully elsewhere within the University or in an external organisation. Talk to other supervisors about the effectiveness of flexible working arrangements in their organisational areas.
  • Think about how the arrangement sought could present opportunities for the organisational unit, could give others a chance to develop new skills and increased opportunity, and how flexibility can boost staff morale, commitment and productivity.
  • Implementing the arrangements sought should not disadvantage other team members. Consider impacts on staffing levels and potential flow-on effects for individuals, and discuss these with the people concerned as appropriate.
  • Plan for contingencies.

6.2 Meeting with the staff member

The staff member may wish to talk to their flexible working request and seek a meeting with the supervisor. Alternatively, the supervisor may request a meeting with the staff member to clarify aspects of their request and in order to properly consider it.

If so, wherever possible this should be a collaborative meeting, held when neither participant is rushed and can engage in full, honest discussion. During the meeting, remember to:

  • remain open to discussion;
  • listen carefully to gather all the details needed to develop an optimal arrangement to suit both parties; and
  • allow for any stress the staff member may be feeling. Be understanding and demonstrate an awareness of all work and non-work issues.

Make sure the staff member understands all the basic issues, e.g. that the inherent requirements of the job must be met and provision made for irregular circumstances, e.g. peak work periods.

Understand all possible options available as a basis for making good decisions. As a simple example, someone may request part-time hours from 9am to 3pm (instead of 9am to 5pm) so that he or she can collect children from day care three days a week. After discussion, it might be agreed to keep the full-time position while adjusting the work schedule, i.e. an earlier start and later finish on non-childcare days and a 3pm departure on the other three days of the week.

Be objective in assessing whether or not a request is realistic. Check that inherent requirements of the job will be satisfied and the staff member is confident about meeting performance goals. Work together on solutions for issues such as availability for meeting deadlines; attendance at and involvement in meetings; and participation at training sessions and conferences. Supervisors need to be mindful of their responsibilities, too, for example by scheduling regular events such as weekly organisational unit meetings for times when all staff, including part-time staff are at work and able to attend (wherever possible).  

The need for openness and honesty extends to others in the organisational unit. For example, if the new flexible working arrangement has flow-on effects for other staff, e.g. by impacting upon their responsibilities, it is important to consult the people involved before agreeing to a request.

Finally, remember that the proposed arrangement can be trialled for a fixed period and set a clear timeframe for evaluation.

6.3 If the request cannot be approved

A request for flexible working arrangements made in accordance with the Policy can only be refused on reasonable business grounds.

The Fair Work Act 2009 does not provide a definition of what constitutes reasonable business grounds, however, factors that may be relevant could include:

  • The effect on the workplace and the business of approving the request, including the financial impact of doing so and the impact on efficiency, productivity and customer service;
  • The inability to organise work amongst existing staff;
  • The inability to recruit a replacement staff member or the practicality or otherwise of the arrangements that may need to be put in place to accommodate the staff member’s request.

Supervisors should not refuse a request for flexible working arrangements simply because the arrangement sought appears too difficult to accommodate.  Supervisors who do not believe that the request can be accommodated on the basis of reasonable business grounds should consult with the Director, Human Resources before refusing a request. Such consultation should occur in a timely fashion having regard to the requirement that the staff member is provided with a response within 21 days from receipt of the request.

Forms

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Flexible Work Arrangements Request - Form

Flexible Work Arrangements Request - Form

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Description: 

This form is used to request flexible working arrangements for staff with caring responsibilities for children in accordance with the associated procedures (PPL 5.43.08b). 

Custodians
Director, Human Resources
Ms Jane Banney