Employees with a disability have a right to request flexible work arrangements

Under the Fair Work Act, employees with a disability have the right to request flexible working arrangements. This can include changes to:

  • hours of work (eg. changes to start and finish times);
  • patterns of work (eg. split shifts or job sharing); and
  • locations of work (eg. working from home).

In most cases, employers and employees will be able to negotiate a reasonable approach that assists the employee to manage their disability while also meeting the employer's need to maintain a viable business.

However, it's important to understand the obligations you might have in this situation. Essentially, while you are able to refuse a request on 'reasonable business grounds', there are certain things you must do. These include:

  • Responding to the employee's request in writing within 21 days of the request being made;
  • Stating whether the request will be granted or refused; and
  • If the request is refused, detailing the reason(s) for refusal in the written response.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has prepared a best practice guide to assist employers and employees, which contains detailed information and sets out a suggested approach for working through requests for flexible work arrangements. While you are not legally obliged to follow all the measures in this best practice guide, it provides a useful framework for achieving a reasonable outcome that is fair to all parties.