Victoria Police’s recent rejection of a detective’s request for flexible working arrangements was held to lack reasonable business grounds in a recent decision before the Fair Work Commission Full Bench (the FWCFB). The decision sheds light on the considerations employers must heed when faced with a flexible work request.
The 57-year-old detective wished to “compress” his 10 eight-hour shifts per fortnight to eight 10-hour shifts, as part of a transition towards retirement after 30 years of work. The Victoria Police Officer’s Enterprise Agreement provides a right to apply for flexible work arrangements under the in circumstances of “child caring responsibilities, disability carer, experiencing domestic violence or having attained the age of 55 years”, mirroring the flexibility provision contained in Modern Awards.
Victoria Police refused the request on the following grounds:
- Regular overtime and recall to duty are “inherent requirements” of the position;
- potential fatigue due to recall following a compressed working week poses OHS risks;
- that the costs flowing from granting the request would impose an “unreasonable financial burden”;
- that granting the proposal would be damaging to the morale and effectiveness of the unit in which the Detective worked; and
- that because of the nature of the role of the detective, elements of the detective’s role would not be suited to the arrangement he proposed.
The FWCFB held that “there would appear to be no significant impact on [Victoria Police’s] business if the request was granted” and that the purported reasons lacked merit or evidence. The Court also noted that the detective requested the arrangement for a 12-month period rather than indefinitely, providing Victoria Police with the opportunity to review and determine the suitability of the arrangement. The FWCFB held that the request should be approved.
The FWCFB commented that the matter raised “important questions about the scope and application of the ‘reasonable business grounds’ requirement” for refusing flexible working hours requests, under s 65(5) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
If you have any questions about when reasonable business grounds may exist to refuse flexible work requests please do not hesitate to contact Nick Stevens, Jane Murray or Angharad Owens-Strauss.