The Federal Government has overhauled the industrial relations system and introduced 10 National Employment Standards through the Fair Work Act 2009. One of these Standards is the "Right to Request Flexibility" (r2r), which will commence on 1 January 2010. Set against a background in which employers are coming to terms with other major changes introduced by the Fair Work Act 2009 on 1 July 2009, and dealing with the Global Financial Crisis, the r2r Standard is at risk of being overlooked.
According to industry experts, this is of considerable concern given that the r2r Standard provides eligible employees (eg parents of under school age children) with significant entitlements, and imposes strict process and decision-making obligations on employers.
Key findings from an Aequus Partners/CCH national survey on knowledge about the r2r found that most employees and managers appear to have little or no understanding of the change. Over 80% of respondents rated employees' and managers knowledge of the r2r as either non-existent or low.
"This means the majority of employees don't know how to make a request under the r2r so that it is compliant and the majority of managers don't know how and when to respond and only 11% were very or extremely confident that managers will be able to implement the reasonable business grounds test. Unless employers act now, confusion will abound on 1 January 2010, non-compliance will be a certainty and access to flexibility by eligible employees will be thwarted," said Aequus Partners' Juliet Bourke (pictured).
Notwithstanding this dangerously low knowledge base, nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents expect that the r2r will in fact generate more work with respect to requests for flexibility by eligible employees (and 59% expect that requests will be made by ineligible employees as well). Without the introduction of proper processes, this workload will become overwhelming.
"A consequence of the apparent lack of knowledge of r2r, coupled with lack of implementation, means that HR have a swag of work ahead. 95% intend to introduce guidelines; 91% will run training for managers; and 89% will update policies," said Bourke.
"Intentions are good but distractions are aplenty and the clock has started ticking. Business needs to give HR the space to implement the flexibility agenda," said Bourke.
For more information on the survey findings and other flexibility tips visit www.workplaceflexibility.com.au