Jacqui has been employed as a receptionist for over two years now. She has been a terrific employee showing herself to be proactive, positive, and above all, very responsible. Jacqui has requested to see you indicating that she would like to adjust her work hours from 9-5 to better suit her lifestyle as she is undertaking further study.
You agree to meet Jacqui and explain that you are here to explore options but be clear there is no guarantee. However, given her track record, you will be open-minded and agree to work together to find a solution.
You attend the meeting with an open mind. Bring no preconceived bias to the meeting as that will just disengage a valued employee. The fact that previous flexible working arrangements may or may not have worked, is irrelevant. Each case should be reviewed upon its individual merits. You actively listen to what Jacqui has got to say her reasons for the request and her proposed plan for how it might work.
- All requests for flexible work must be documented by the employee.
You only evaluate the request based upon the facts before you: Jacqui is a highly regarded employee working on our business reception seeking to adjust her hours to accommodate further studies. You have since determined that the further studies are in the field of naturopathy, nothing related to her current employment.
- Following any informal conversations explain to the requesting employee that according to Fair Work Legislation and company policy the request should be documented to ensure everyone understands exactly what is being requested.
- Once the request for a flexible work arrangement is formally submitted, reply to the employee, stating that the company will consider the request based on the facts before it and will respond as soon as possible but no longer than 21 days.
- Within your response to the employee let them know that you will be in touch as soon as a decision been reached.
In all cases refer to the company policy, if there is one. It may indicate that such requests are based on a case-by-case basis. Be aware of setting a precedent or of any previous arrangements that may have set a precedent. If a former or other receptionist has been granted flexible working hours, no matter what the reason, be aware that to decline Jacqui might have further ramifications.
Given that the reception duties are client-facing and are likely to be required during “normal business hours” this request may be difficult to accommodate. It is also relevant that the further studies are not related to Jacqui’s current employment and as such don’t appear to add value to her current role. The facts to consider are the impact on the business of accommodating this request and is it reasonable. If it is deemed not reasonable, it is permitted to decline.
If the request could easily be accommodated, for example, Jacqui is asking to finish one day per week one hour earlier, then it is likely if you decline this request it will not be deemed reasonable and Jacqui could possibly leave.
- Once a decision has been reached ensure that you book a time to discuss with the employee.
- Do not just send an email with the outcome to the employee. It is good practice to have a follow-up discussion where you communicate the outcomes and to follow up the discussion with an email summarising the decision.
- In any conversation, never agree to anything or make verbal promises or lead the employee to have reasonable grounds to say you approved the request.
- Employees from time to time will hear what they want to hear and it is critical in these situations to document the request and follow up so everyone is clear on what is being discussed and what the decision is.
- Should the request for flexible work hours be approved be clear in writing to the employee that the arrangement is time-bound and subject to review according to the needs of the business?
Whatever decision is made based on the facts before you, agree to a follow-up review to ensure that the agreement reached is working for both the business and the employee. If flexibility is granted, ensure that there is no business disruption that cannot be reasonably covered and if it is not granted meet to review if there is another solution that can be found that works for both the employer and employee.
There will be situations where it is not reasonable to accommodate the employee request as they were employed to do a specific role and that cannot be performed with the flexibility being requested.