Family-friendly changes are in force now

Unlike the bullying amendments, family friendly changes to the Act have already taken affect.

Starting this month, HR managers need to ensure their systems, policies and procedures incorporate a number of extensions to existing flexible work requirements, Calderone says. 

The family-friendly changes mean:

  • pregnant women can transfer to a safe job even if they haven’t worked for their employer for 12 months (and if there is no safe job, they are entitled to unpaid leave even if they aren’t entitled to paid parental leave);
  • employees can take special maternity leave without it reducing the amount of unpaid parental leave they can take;
  • couples can take up to eight weeks’ unpaid parental leave at the same time (increasing from three weeks), and can take it in separate periods – for example, two periods of two weeks; and
  • more groups of employees now have the right to request flexible working arrangements, including employees with caring responsibilities, parents or guardians of children that are school age or younger, employees with disability, employees who are 55 years or older, and employees who are experiencing family violence or supporting a family or household member who is.

A positive change for employers is the provision of further guidance on the reasonable grounds upon which they can refuse flexible work requests, Calderone says. 
“While they’re entirely consistent with the grounds employers have been using, it’s certainly more comforting to [reference] a bullet point in the legislation.”

The legislation’s non-exhaustive list of “reasonable business grounds” to refuse a flexible work request includes:

  • the new working arrangements would be too costly for the employer;
  • there is no capacity to change the working arrangements of other employees to accommodate the request;
  • it would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees or hire new employees;
  • new working arrangements would be likely to result in significant loss in efficiency/productivity; or


  • new working arrangements would be likely to result in significant negative impact on customer service.

  • mums@work | 11.07.13
    Image: Free Digital Images/David Castillo Dominici