FWC considering award changes to allow more flexibility to work from home

Posted by on Sep 7, 2020

Acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated working from home arrangements, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has released a draft modern award schedule addressing working-from-home arrangements (accessed here). It is likely to be particularly relevant for small businesses, who are unlikely to be covered by an enterprise agreement.

This draft model schedule may be included in appropriate modern awards in future, to assist employees and employers to adapt to the changed working conditions. The FWC has not yet indicated which awards could be varied to include this schedule.

While many workplaces allow employees to work from home, the lack of an express provision to facilitate working from home arrangements may limit flexibility. For example, working parents may prefer to work in the evenings, but award provisions may require payment of overtime or penalty rates in these circumstances.

The draft model Flexibility Schedule includes a provision which allows for an employer and an employee to reach agreement on a working from home arrangement that balances the personal and work responsibilities of the employee with the business needs of the employer. It also allows for:

  • full time or part time employees to request to compress their working week so that their usual weekly ordinary hours are worked over a reduced number of their usual work days
  • employees to take twice as much annual leave at half pay with the agreement of their employer
  • employees to purchase additional leave with the agreement of their employer
  • a change in the span of hours in a workplace or section of a workplace with the agreement of 75% of employees
  • an agreement to share a reduction in working hours in a workplace or section of a workplace with the agreement of 75% of employees, in circumstances where an employer cannot usefully employ all of the full time and part time employees in a workplace or section of a workplace
  • an employer direction to an employee to perform all duties within their skill and competency
  • an employer direction to an employee to work at a different workplace (including the employee’s home)
  • an employer direction to employees to stagger starting and finishing times of work.

While this draft model Flexibility Schedule (accessed here) is in its early stages, we will monitor any developments with interest, and keep our clients updated.