What is working flexibly?
A flexible work arrangement is a variation to the standard full-time core job functions and hours you would otherwise normally perform. Flexible work arrangements come in all shapes and sizes and are often innovative in design and structure. They can vary for each individual employee depending upon the type of work, work pattern variations available to employees, and the effect flexibility has on the organisation.
There is no absolute definition for flexible work. A flexible work arrangement might mean a starting time of 10 am for three days a week, or work from home between 9 am – 11 am every day before heading into the office, or job share the same job with another part time employee, or have reduced rostered hours, or finish at 7 pm for two days a week and take a half day off each week. The list of possibilities is endless depending on what suits the role and the organisation.
For a flexible work arrangement to be implemented, an agreement must be reached between you and your employer to ensure that the arrangement is feasible and satisfactory for all stakeholders.
Determining what your goals and requirements are is the first step in deciding which flexible work arrangement will work for you.
Types of Flexible Arrangements:
Typically in Australia, part-time work is considered to be less than 35 hours a week. Part-time work can be five days a week with shorter than usual hours, or working on certain and agreed days a week. For example:
2, 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5
5 x ½ days e.g.10 am – 3 pm
5 day fortnight e.g. 3 days one week, 2 days the next
Regular core hours that vary during exams or school holidays.
Flexible Working Hours
This arrangement is tailored to meet individual and business needs and can apply to full-time and part-time employees. It requires employees to negotiate their working hours with their employer. For example:
- Staggering start and finish times
- Longer hours per day for fewer days work (also see Compressed Working Week)
- Weekly number of hours agreed upfront and employee completes hours based on own work schedule (with employer’s consent) e.g. employee keeps their own hours.
Rostering and Flexi Time
Rostering: A variable arrangement where the working hours of the employee are agreed around specific work patterns and shifts that may fluctuate. e.g. Hours and days are negotiated on a regular basis 12 noon – 9 pm shift versus 8 am – 4 pm
Flexi Time: Where an employee accrues paid leave based upon additional hours being worked over an extended period. e.g. 1 day paid leave accrued per month by the employee working additional hours each week.
Compressed Working Week
An employee may elect to work nine days in a fortnight instead of ten, on the condition that they work the same number of hours in a normal fortnight over nine days. For example, you may elect longer than average working hours e.g. 8 am – 8 pm for 4 days instead of 5. Or work longer hours over 9 days instead of 10 in a fortnight.
Job sharing is an arrangement where one full-time position is shared between two or more people. Each person in the arrangement works part-time in a regular and on-going basis, usually so that at least one of the ‘team’ is present on any working day. Conditions for people in job share arrangements are usually the same as those for part timers. Companies will consider this option in a situation where a job requires a person to be available full-time, but it need not be the same person.
For example, employee A works Monday-Tuesday.Employee B works Wednesday to Friday. Or employee A works 8 am -1 pm.Employee B works from 1 pm to 6 pm.
Where responsibilities of one full-time role are separated logically and allocated to two or three people. For example:
- Employee relinquishes elements of job duties in return for other duties that allow them to be able to leave at 3pm each day.
- Employees share the team workload with one another to allow each team member some flexibility in working days and hours. E.g. one employee agrees to cover the workload of another team member so they can start work at 10 am and in return swaps and covers for the other as agreed.
Working from Home
Working from home arrangements can either be on a regular basis or an agreement where working from home can be done when required. For example:
- Employee has fully sanctioned work from home office which allows them to work at home.
- Employee has work from home access to some elements of their job e.g. report writing, which allows work at home e.g. 8 am – 10.30 am, 5 days per week or 2 days per week.
The Purchase Leave or 48/52 Option
This is referred to by different names in different companies and may vary in detail, but generally means that an employee can elect to take additional annual leave (i.e. in addition to their annual entitlement), in return for a pro-rata reduction in their salary. This reduction is then averaged out over the year. For example:
- Employee purchases 2 weeks extra annual leave to use at their leisure (with manager approval).
- Employee elects to reduce salary by percentage each week to allow them to work 4 days instead 5 on a temporary basis e.g. during school holidays, leading up to parental leave, during exam time, whilst phasing into retirement (also see part year / variable year work arrangements)
Variable Work Location Mobile / Email / Tele-Commuting
Mobile work on the road, from home, in the office, from a client’s workplace, via email and phone. Employee, manager and client agree variable work location and hours to meet the demands of the job which requires flexibility from the employee. Employee manages own weekly work schedule and location around work requirements.
Where an employee is granted leave of absence or sabbatical for an extended period of time on a full-time or part time basis (usually unpaid) e.g. up to 12 months. For example, employee may request a career break for reasons such as travel, school holidays, care for family, grandparent leave, study, or illness.
Gradual Return to Work
Where an employee gradually returns to ‘normal’ working arrangements on an incremental basis over a period of time e.g. after illness or parental leave. For example, employee is due to return from parental leave e.g. starts back 2 days for the first 6 months then 3 days after that, then 4 days after 2 years.
Part-Year or Variable Year Employment
Where an employee works for a certain number of months a year and then is granted unpaid leave for the remainder of the year (works for employers with seasonal work demands and employees needing more time off than the average 4 weeks annual leave). For example:
- Employee / employer agrees that they will work for only part of the year.
- An employee works for 9 months (not necessarily consecutive) of the year and is granted unpaid leave for the remaining 3 months. E.g. employee takes 1 month off every 4 months to look after children during school holidays.