Human Resources

Right to request flexible working arrangements

Further information

Flexible work and leave Policy

For related legislation and policies, contact Employee Relations and Management Services or Equity and Diversity.

The National Employment Standards (NES), under the Fair Work Act 2009, include a provision for parents or carers of a child under school age, or of a child under 18 with a disability, to request a flexible working arrangement to assist with the child’s care.

  1. Process
  2. Disputes
  3. UWA Policy


Requests for a flexible working arrangement must be in writing and must set out details of the change sought and reasons for the change. The employer has 21 days to provide a written response, either granting or refusing the request.

The employer has no mandatory obligation to provide flexible working arrangements. However, they do have a duty to consider eligible requests. An employer cannot decide to not consider a request, or reject a request, without considering whether the arrangements can be accommodated to suit both parties. The employer must provide ‘reasonable business grounds’ for any refusal of a request for a flexible working arrangement made persuant to the NES.

Factors considered relevant to a definition of ‘reasonable business grounds’ include the:

  • nature of the role
  • impact of the requested arrangement on business/team operations
  • associated costs / adverse financial impact (must be quantified)
  • impact on efficiency, productivity and customer service
  • inability to reorganise or reallocate work among existing staff
  • inability to recruit a replacement employee (or costs of)
  • practicality or otherwise of the arrangements that may need to be put in place to accommodate the employee’s request (e.g. technology, access to resources, rescheduling tasks)

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Fair Work Australia cannot deal with disputes over an employer’s refusal of a flexible work request, but it does provide for certain avenues of redress where a right to request by an employee may not have been adequately dealt with. If both parties agree, a dispute can be referred to an independent third party for consideration and arbitration. Fair Work Australia can generally only help in a dispute if it's allowed under the relevant award, agreement or law.

The National Employment Standards do not replace any state law containing similar entitlements that are more beneficial to the employee. Be aware that the UWA Flexible Work and Leave Practices Policy is broader in scope than the NES.

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UWA Policy 

UWA is committed to providing employment conditions which include the right to request flexible working arrangements. The right to request a flexible working arrangement is far more extensive under the UWA Flexible Work and Leave Practices Policy than is provided under the Fair Work Act 2009.

All staff at The University of Western Australia are entitled to work flexibly, but not all flexible work and leave options are available to all staff.

The Policy stipulates that supervisors and managers are to exercise particular sensitivity when considering employee requests for flexibility to accommodate illness or disability, caring or cultural responsibilities.

Any refusal of a request to work flexibly must be in writing and must provide ‘reasonable business grounds’. The staff member may then exercise their capacity for a review of the decision-making by the Director, Human Resources.

UWA Equal Opportunity statement

Where a refusal might be seen as discriminatory, staff at The University of Western Australia are protected under the WA Equal Opportunity Act 1984. Staff are also protected under the UWA Equal Opportunity Policy Statement:

The University of Western Australia is committed to a policy of equal opportunity in employment and education. The University accepts that it has a responsibility to create an environment free from discrimination, and to ensure that the principle of merit operates unhindered by regard to irrelevant criteria. To this end the University will act to ensure that its structures are free from direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status or pregnancy, race, age, sexual orientation, gender history, religious or political beliefs, impairment, family responsibility or family status. (1993; 2002)

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