Acknowledging that some of us actually have families that occasionally need our attention, new ‘family-friendly measures’ were introduced as part of the recent amendments to the Fair Work Act.

The new measures, which commenced on 1 July 2013, include:

  • an expansion of the class of employees who can request flexible work arrangements to include those aged over 55 years, those with children of school age (previously pre-school age), people with disabilities, and those affected by domestic violence;
  • an express right for parents returning from leave in relation to the birth or adoption of a child to request part-time employment; and
  • increasing the amount of concurrent parental leave from three weeks to eight weeks, which can be taken in separate periods no shorter than two weeks.

Business interests, however, have not been completely forgotten. The amendments also provide new guidance on what may be regarded as ‘reasonable business grounds’ to refuse a request for flexible work arrangements. Examples include:

  • the new working arrangements would be too costly;
  • there is no capacity, or it would be impractical to change the arrangements of other employees to accommodate the new working arrangements;
  • the new working arrangements would likely result in a significant loss in efficiency or productivity; or
  • the new working arrangements would likely have a significant negative impact on customer service.