View Current

Workplace Flexibility Policy

This is the current version of this document. To view historic versions, click the link in the document's navigation bar.

Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) Western Sydney University (University) recognises that the changing context of work has created new challenges and opportunities for employers and employees that require workplaces to embrace greater flexibility.

(2) The University also understands that certain personal circumstances create additional challenges for staff in balancing their work objectives and personal priorities. This includes employees:

  1. with family or carer responsibilities,
  2. with a disability themselves,
  3. who are experiencing, or supporting a family member experiencing domestic violence, or
  4. who are transitioning to retirement.

(3) This policy outlines the University’s commitment to providing flexible work for staff in recognition of the benefits a flexible work environment can provide to the whole University community, our staff and students.

(4) In promoting flexible work options which enable staff to balance their work requirements with personal and family priorities, this policy seeks to:

  1. improve gender equality outcomes in the workplace
  2. maintain positive staff wellbeing and engagement 
  3. enhance the overall capacity of our organisation, and our staff to maintain and even improve productivity by increasing staff morale and reducing absenteeism
  4. facilitate increased staff retention, and subsequently maintain organisational knowledge.

(5) The policy outlines the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provisions that allow eligible employees the right to request flexible working arrangements and incorporates the flexible working arrangements as outlined in the University's Staff Agreements.

(6) This policy works in conjunction with existing entitlements, policies and practices that support employees to apply for flexible work arrangements, including  the 35 hour working week and the University's Flexible Hours of Work Scheme, the Discrimination, Harassment, Vilification and Victimisation Prevention Policy, the Disability Policy and others flexible work options as set out on the University's Flexible Working Options webpage.

Top of Page

Section 2 - Definitions

(7) For the purpose of this policy:

  1. Act means the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
  2. Family responsibilities (within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)) refers to responsibility for the care of a child, and/or any other immediate family member in need of care or support.
  3. Carer  (within the meaning of the Carer (Recognition) Act (2010) (NSW)) is a person who provides personal care, support and assistance to another person because of their disability and aged-related needs This excludes care, support or assistance provided as part of paid or unpaid work, a service provision contract, and/or education or training program. A person is not inherently considered a carer solely on the basis of their family and/or domestic relationship to the person in need of care.
  4. Disability (within the meaning the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)) is any temporary or permanent physical, sensory, neurological, intellectual, psychiatric or learning disability, and includes physical disfigurement, the presence in the body of disease-causing organisms and total or partial loss of part of the body or a bodily function.
  5. Immediate family member includes the following biological, adoptive, foster and step relationships - a married, de facto opposite sex or same sex partner, an ex-partner, a parent or partner's or ex-partner's parent, a brother or partner's or ex-partner's brother, a sister or partner's or ex-partner's sister, a grandchild or partner's or ex-partner's grandchild and a grandparent or partner's or ex-partner's grandparent.
  6. Inherent requirements of a job are determined by the circumstances of each job and include the ability to perform the tasks or functions which are a required function of the job, productivity and quality requirements, the ability to work effectively in a team and the ability to work safely. These are often referenced in the selection criteria or position description.
  7. Reasonable business grounds are determined by the requirements of the organisation or individual unit and can include, but are not limited to:
    1. the new working arrangements would be too costly
    2. there is no capacity to change the working arrangements of other employees to accommodate the new working arrangement request
    3. it would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees or to recruit new employees to accommodate new working arrangement request
    4. the new working arrangements would be likely to result in significant loss of efficiency or productivity
    5. the new working arrangements would likely have a significant impact on customer service. 
  8. Unjustifiable Hardship refers to significant difficulties or expense to an employer that renders the workplace adjustment requested unwarranted.
Top of Page

Section 3 - Policy Statement

(8) The University recognises the increasing need for employees to balance work and personal and family priorities. The longstanding provision of the 35 hour working week for fulltime staff and the Flexible Hours of Work Scheme demonstrate the University's commitment to the implementation of working arrangements that find the best possible match between the requirements of the University and those of individual employees.

(9) At the University working arrangements should be inherently flexible wherever reasonably possible. The application of flexibility and reasonableness when considering working arrangements should enable all employees, to request access to conditions of employment which allow a balance between work and personal or family priorities.

(10) Under the Act employee’s in certain circumstances have a right to request flexible working arrangements. The University will undertake all reasonable efforts to accommodate and support the needs of employees in fulfilling the inherent requirements of a position if they:

  1. are the parent, or have the responsibility for the care, of a child of school age or under
  2. are a carer
  3. have a disability
  4. are 55 years or older
  5. are a victim of domestic violence, or
  6. are caring for or supporting a member of their family or household because the other person is a victim of domestic violence.

(11) Where the University is unable to accommodate the needs of an employee in their request for a flexible work arrangement in the above circumstances, this will only be based upon the relevant test of unjustifiable hardship or reasonable business grounds.

(12) Taking into account a person's training, qualifications, experience, performance and all other relevant factors, it is not unlawful discrimination by the University against an employee requesting a flexible working arrangement, if the person:

  1. would be unable to carry out the inherent requirements of the particular job; or
  2. would require arrangements which would impose an unjustifiable hardship on the University.

(13) In determining what constitutes unjustifiable hardship, all relevant circumstances of the particular case are to be taken into account, including:

  1. the nature of the benefit likely to be accrued or detriment to be suffered by persons affected, and
  2. the effect of the employee's personal or family priorities, and
  3. the financial circumstances of and the estimated amount of expenditure required to be made by the University when claiming unjustifiable hardship.

(14) A decision of unjustifiable hardship must be based on the established facts of the situation, and not assumptions, and there must be consideration of alternative arrangements which could assist the employee balance their personal or family priorities and perform the inherent requirements of their position.

(15) The University will provide targeted staff development training on flexible working arrangements as relates to this policy, available to managers/supervisors and all academic and administrative staff. The University will undertake strategies to raise awareness of flexible work options available for all staff.

(16) The University will consider flexible working arrangements for all employees under the applicable University Staff Agreement provisions and other employment policies and practices which enable flexible working arrangements.

(17) The University's Staff Agreements contain a number of flexibility measures including a 35 hour working week for fulltime employees, a Flexible Hours of Work Scheme and personal leave that employees can access.

(18) An employee, who is unable to access flexible working arrangements under a University Staff Agreement or other University employment related policies and practices, may request flexible working arrangements from their manager/supervisor under this policy.

(19) Employees with family and/or carer responsibilities, disability, experiencing or supporting a family member experiencing family violence, or aged 55 years and over are entitled to make requests for flexible working arrangements under this policy.

(20) Employees with family responsibilities may also have access to parental leave options, including flexible return to work options, if they are primary or secondary carer of a child after birth. Parental leave options and conditions are outlined in the relevant University Staff Agreement and on the OHR website.

(21) Employees with a disability or who are carers of children or immediate family members with a disability are entitled to make requests for flexible working arrangements under this policy and the University's Disability Policy.

(22) The types of flexible working arrangements available for staff may include (subject to relevant University policy and Enterprise Agreement provisions) but are not limited to:

  1. Options for part-time work
  2. Job sharing
  3. Variations in starting and finishing times, roster arrangements or break times 
  4. Working hours over fewer calendar days
  5. Flexibility in when paid and unpaid leave can be taken and the option to purchase additional leave under the PAL scheme
  6. Working remotely, for part of the time where appropriate
  7. Adequate notice being provided to an employee when there is a request to vary their usual hours or location of work
  8. Workplace child care arrangements as part of an employee's salary package; and
  9. Time for breastfeeding and breast milk extraction at work.

Requests for Flexible Working Arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009

(23) The Act allows for employees in certain circumstances (see Section 10) the right to request flexible work arrangements.

(24) Employees are entitled to make the request under the Act when they have completed at least 12 months of continuous service at the University immediately before making the request.

(25) Casual employees are entitled to make a request under the Act if:

  1. They have been employed by the University on a regular and systematic basis for a sequence of periods of employment of at least 12 months immediately before making the request; and
  2. There is a reasonable expectation of continuing employment by the University on a regular and systematic basis.
Top of Page

Section 4 - Procedures

Part A - Requesting Flexible Working Arrangements

(26) An employee seeking to request a flexible working arrangement under the Act should:

  1. Submit a request in writing to their manager/supervisor outlining:
  1. the reasons for the request
  2. the nature of the arrangements required, and
  3. the period of time proposed to utilise the arrangements.

(27) The manager/supervisor must give genuine consideration to the request for flexible working arrangements and the proposals put forward by the employee.

(28) The employee and the manager/supervisor must meet in person to discuss the request within 14 calendar days of a written submission being made, or if feasible, earlier where the circumstances require it. Direct and personal communication is required. The aim of this meeting is to:

  1. reach an agreement where possible that balances the University’s needs and the employee’s requirements
  2. clarify the flexible working arrangements required by the employee and for the manager/supervisor to raise any concerns they may have with the request
  3. address any reasonable concerns from the manager/supervisor about the proposed flexible working arrangement, and consider and discuss alternative arrangements.

(29) In considering an application for a flexible working arrangement a manager/supervisor must also consider:

  1. any work, health and safety issues which may impact on the request as per the Work Health and Safety Policy,
  2. their delegation capacity under the Delegations (Administrative) Policy, and
  3. provisions under the Staff Agreements

(30) If the manager/supervisor is uncertain about the request or is considering not approving the request they must consult with the Equity and Diversity Unit (EDU) and the Office of Human Resources (HR). EDU or HR must provide a response within 14 calendar days of the employee’s request.

(31) Within 21 calendar days of meeting with their manager/supervisor an employee must be provided with a written response to their request, stating whether their request has been granted or refused, and providing reasons for this decision.

(32) A refusal of a request for flexible working arrangements must only be made in terms of either unjustifiable hardship or reasonable business grounds.

(33) A refusal of a request for flexible working arrangement should, where possible, also include consideration of alternative arrangements to that requested by the employee.

(34) Employees have a responsibility to immediately inform their manager/supervisor when their circumstances, as related to flexible work arrangements ceases or significantly changes.

(35) Where approved, there should be at least an annual review of the agreement to ensure that the employee and the University's needs are being met.

(36) It is appropriate for an employee and a manager/supervisor to make an informal flexible working arrangement if there are no Work Health and Safety (WHS) issues to be considered, and:

  1. The employee requesting the arrangement is requesting under a circumstance not covered by the Fair Work Act as outlined above, or
  2. The flexible work arrangement is for a short term period, or
  3. Both the employee and manager/supervisor have reached mutual agreement on the terms of a flexible work arrangement.

(37) In the instance of an informal agreement, correspondence detailing the agreed terms of the arrangement should still be entered into to ensure both parties are fully informed of their responsibilities.  Advice can also be sought in these instances from E&D or the OHR.

Part B - Dealing with Breaches of this Policy

(38) Where practicable a dispute as to the application of this policy should be resolved informally through discussion with the appropriate manager/supervisor. If the matter cannot be resolved the issue should be escalated to the relevant Senior HR Partner.

(39) If a manager/supervisor does not follow the procedures or refuses a request for flexible work arrangements as outlined in this policy, an employee can follow the Dispute Settlement provision in the University Staff Agreements in the first instance.

Part C - Responsibilities of the Executive and Senior Managers

(40) Executives and Senior Managers:

  1. will ensure that all University policies and procedures do not discriminate on the grounds of an employee's personal circumstances as they relate to the Act; and
  2. should inform employees of this policy and other policies as relate to flexible working arrangements, and should adhere to the University's commitment to equal opportunity for all employees. 

Part D - Responsibilities of Managers and Supervisors

(41) Managers and Supervisors:

  1. must inform employees about this policy. Talent and Leadership Development will provide staff training on flexible work arrangements as they relate to this policy for all managers/supervisors.
  2. should determine, with advice from the Office of Human Resources, whether specific documentation is required. Most arrangements may be made through flexible work practices provisions, some of which require specific documentation, as per the applicable employment agreements.
  3. may request advice and assistance from the Equity and Diversity Unit and Office of Human Resources.
  4. must document a decision not to approve a request for flexible working arrangements from any employee regardless of whether the employee was requesting under the Fair Work Act or to balance other personal priorities. The documentation of the decision, including reasons qualified under unjustifiable hardship or reasonable business grounds, must be made available to the employee for review.
  5. must review the flexible work arrangements at regular intervals, at least annually, the arrangements made with employee to ensure that the University’s and employee’s needs continue to be met.
  6. maintain appropriate confidentiality of personal matters.

Part E - Responsibilities of Employees

(42) Employees requesting flexible working arrangements:

  1. may inform their manager/supervisor of personal circumstances relevant to their request for flexible working arrangements
  2. may make a written request for flexible work practices
  3. must, when requested, provide documentation of their responsibilities, such as a doctor's certificate or social work report
  4. may request a third party to assist in the discussions of special arrangements with their supervisor
  5. should seek independent advice in relation to their superannuation if they change their hours of work.

Part F - Responsibility of the Equity and Diversity Unit

(43) The Equity and Diversity Unit will:

  1. provide assistance to an employee, including managers/supervisors, seeking information and advice in relation to requests for flexible working arrangements.

Part G - Responsibility of the Office of Human Resources

(44) The Office of Human Resources will:

  1. provide assistance to an employees and manager/supervisors in relation to requests for flexible working arrangements.
Top of Page

Section 5 - Guidelines

Relevant Laws/Guidelines

(45) Federal Laws/Guidelines:

  1. Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
  2. Work and Family Best Practice Guide (Fair Work Ombudsman)
  3. Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)
  4. Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
  5. Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth)
  6. Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth)
  7. Carer Recognition Act 2010 (Cth)
  8. Carer Recognition Act 2010 Guidelines

(46) State Laws/Guidelines:

  1. Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), Part 4B
  2. Carers (Recognition) Act 2010 (NSW)
  3. Carer's Responsibilities Discrimination: Guidelines for Employers (Anti-Discrimination Board)