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employmentinfo
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Workplace flexibility arrangements 

Flexible work practices can take many forms.

Leave entitlements 

There are a range of leave entitlements aimed at improving work and family balance to assist with caring responsibilities.

Parental Leave. An eligible employee is entitled to unpaid parental leave for a period of up to 12 months. There is also a right to request an additional 12 months unpaid leave, with approval from the employer. The Australian Government also provides 18 weeks of paid parental leave for an eligible employee.

Personal/Carers Leave. This leave can be taken when you are sick, or to care for a family member who is sick or requires care due to an unexpected emergency. The entitlement is 10 days per annum and untaken leave accrues from year to year.

Annual Leave. Annual leave provisions now provide for more flexibility. It may be taken for any period agreed between the employer and employee, including single days, rather than in blocks of a week or longer. 

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What other flexible work arrangements are available? 

Many businesses now offer flexible workplaces to meet the needs of their workers. Not only does this help the business to plan ahead in terms of available staff, but it also helps businesses to keep valuable staff and retain workers that have a lot of knowledge and experience about the business.

Even if an employee is unable to access a legislated entitlement to flexible work practices (for example, because of eligibility requirements), it is possible to make informal arrangements by agreement which suit the needs of both an employer and employee.

It is best to put an agreement in writing and review the agreement regularly to ensure that it still meets the needs of the business and the family responsibilities of the employee.

An ageing population, low fertility rates and a shrinking workforce means businesses will increasingly need to employ or retain mature age workers. By 2016, over 80% of labour market growth will come from people over the age of 45.

Many older workers care for elderly parents, children or grandchildren which means that businesses will need to consider offering more flexible conditions to retain their workers.

Workers who can utilise flexible working hour arrangements can better meet responsibilities such as caring for children or parents, or provide a better work-life balance.

Research demonstrates that these workers are more likely to stay with a business, and will be able to work more productively.

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The features of flexible arrangements 

Type of arrangement Features

Flexitime

Flexitime enables workers to work an agreed number of hours spread over a set period of time. This allows a worker to accrue hours in order to have a rostered day off during that period. This could be done on a fortnightly or monthly basis, or as agreed with the employer. Rostered days could also be accumulated, if the applicable award or agreement allows for such an arrangement.

Compressed working hours

This arrangement allows a worker to work longer hours each working day in order to work less days over a set period of time. A common example is where a workers works a 4-day week by working longer hours on the four days and takes off the fifth day.

Part-time work

Part-time work gives job protection, regular hours and access to the same benefits as full-time employment on a pro-rata basis. This means workers can better manage their work and caring responsbilities. Many workers like to access part-time work to allow them to care for children, grandchildren, partners or elderly family members, to work in the community or to pursue learning. Part-time work allows businesses to retain valued and skilled workers, arrange jobs to coincide with peak or slow times, extended hours of operation and minimise staff turnover or reduce absenteeism through providing a better work/life balance.

Job sharing

This arrangement lets two or more workers share one full-time job. It's a practical way of attracting and retaining workers, including those with caring responsibilities, who do not wish to or are unable to work full-time. It can bring a wider range of skills to the one position, offers wider recruitment options and provides opportunities for job sharers to support and learn from each other. Additionally, job-sharing can reduce turnover in jobs that are demanding or monotonous and can allow businesses to extend hours of operation without incurring overtime costs.

Seasonal work

Some workers, including those with caring responsibilities, don't wish to or are unable to work for parts of the year. However, they may be available to work during school holidays, over the Christmas period or during peak business operations. Businesses using workers for seasonal work can plan for busy periods and attract and retain workers who otherwise might not be available.

Working from home

Home-based work is another way that businesses can retain valued employees who may otherwise leave the company. It can increase productivity because it reduces commuting time and because there are fewer interruptions to work. Home-based work may be permanent or it may be used as and when needed to help workers manage their work and caring responsibilities.

Purchased leave

Businesses can offer their workers the opportunity to 'purchase' additional leave by a corresponding reduction in weekly pay throughout the year. For workers without caring responsibilities, purchased leave provides more leisure time to pursue interests or travel. For those with caring responsibilities, the extra time away from work could be used in conjunction with respite care to provide a well-earned break for the carer or it could enable family members to share caring responsibilities.

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