Family Flexibility for Working Australian Families

Are you aware of a significant change that occurred in Canberra last month?

With so much media attention focused on the leadership spill you could be forgiven for not being aware of another significant change that occurred in Canberra during the same week Kevin Rudd replaced Julia Gillard as our Prime Minister. Despite all the distractions surrounding the leadership in the final week of June, real work was continuing in the house with numerous Bills being moved to ensure their progress through the house in what was to be the last sitting before the proposed election on 14 September.
One of these Bills creates a significant impact on the workplace by providing more family flexibility for working Australian Families. The Fair Work Act Amendment Bill 2013 received Royal Assent on Friday 28 June and is now law. The family friendly changes started on 1 July 2013, and they affect every Australian business.

What does this mean for your business?

In seeking to ensure more Australians achieve a decent balance between work and family life, Parental Leave now provides greater
flexibility to workers with the length of concurrent parental leave increasing to eight weeks (from three weeks); a right for all pregnant
employees to transfer to a safe job even if they haven’t worked for their employer for 12 months; and employees taking special maternity  leave without reducing the amount of unpaid parental leave they can take.

 

Also, Flexible Work Arrangements are now extended to:

  • 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;
  • employees who are experiencing family violence or who are caring or supporting a family or household member who is experiencing  family violence.

Larger organisations can absorb these changes into HR policy because they have structures, processes, and flexibility that are already embedded in a large corporation culture. But many business owners we work with don’t have the luxury of that same flexibility. Do you?

This is yet another slug to small and medium businesses.

The business environment was thrust into utter confusion at the start of the GFC and, despite persistent spin from the government about the strength of our economy, consumer spending tightened, demonstrating a general lack of confidence in the marketplace. Indeed, Dun & Bradstreet report small business failures were up by 48% for the December quarter 2011. A more recent article from Dynamic Business Magazine tells us ASIC reported 1,123 businesses were placed into insolvency or external administration in February 2012.
Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, commented that this latest amendment to the Fair Work Act 2009 may well ensure that ‘Millions of working Australian workers will benefit from increased workplace flexibility and protections.’

But what are the real implications of workplace flexibility for your business?

While family flexibility might be fine for big business who can absorb these policies due to greater numbers of workers, can you as a small to medium business owner afford to lose more time, money and morale by needing to adopt these changes?
Gaining up-to-date expert advice on these policies and what they mean for you as an employer is a vital safeguard in protecting your business. That’s why we strongly advocate that in response to the amended Fair Work Act 2009, you as an employer:

  • Seek professional advice to make sure the changes are fully understood;
  • Ensure policies are in place to reflect the changes; and
  • Protect your business with proven guidance from a HR consultancy on your side.

If you would like more information on the implications of these changes for you and your business, or would like to discuss them further,  please contact me on 02 4353 4453 or trishbell@head2headhr.com.au