Australia advances flexible work option for public employees

Employers are urged to review workplace policies and consider accommodation and alternative arrangements to ensure compliance.
By: | July 19, 2023

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has taken steps towards implementing an agreement that recognises flexible work as a fundamental workplace right. However, the commission has issued an ultimatum to the members of the Community and Public Service Union (CPSU), emphasising the need to vote in favour of a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) for the deal to come to fruition.

In the latest bargaining update, the APSC maintains its stance, stating that the flexible position is not yet finalised and will only be implemented once negotiations at both service-wide and agency levels are completed. The commission further emphasised that once the deal is agreed upon, it will be final. Pay and common conditions negotiated during the APS-wide bargaining process will be included in the proposed enterprise agreement, ruling out the possibility of reopening negotiations at the agency level.

Managers are advised to prepare for the flexible work mandate by reviewing workplace policies to ensure compliance. The APSC suggested considering various factors when evaluating requests for flexible work arrangements, such as accommodation possibilities, the merit of the request, the reason provided, and alternative options within reasonable business requirements. Different roles may have varying degrees of flexibility available, considering factors such as job-sharing, compressed hours, or other similar arrangements.

The APSC’s stance may be attributed to several factors, including the CPSU’s success in securing flexible work as a right. The CPSU has proposed a 20% pay rise, while the APSC has offered 10.5%. Despite differing views, the flexible working mandate is expected to benefit both public service employees and employers by expanding work location possibilities and potentially increasing productivity.

READ MORE: Redefining of casual work in Australia spark concerns over flexibility and pay

However, opposition to flexible work arrangements exists within the business community, with banks expressing varying opinions on its implementation. The National Australia Bank has incorporated flexible work into its latest EBA, while Matt Comyn, CEO of Commonwealth Bank, defended his decision to require employees to work from the office at least 50% of the time, reported The Mandarin.