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HR Tips Q1 2018 – Working Flexibly at the University

Creating a flexible workplace is part of a modern working organisation and is important for staff to balance work demands with caring and personal commitments. Flexibility helps attract and retain talent, leading to improved staff satisfaction, retention and productivity.

The University encourages our people leaders to consider and support opportunities for flexibility where the business area can reasonably accommodate the arrangement.

What is a Voluntary Flexible Work Arrangement (VFWA)?
  • Changing location of work or a professional staff member’s work pattern; such as starting a professional workday at 7am (ordinary hours under the new Enterprise Agreement).
  • Reducing an employment fraction, such as working part time to care for a child or elderly parent;
  • Purchasing additional leave, which means “buying” additional weeks of annual leave; and
  • “Compressed weeks”, which means a professional staff member working a 9-day fortnight instead of 10 days.
VFWA online approval

The first step for any arrangement is a conversation between you and your staff member.

Since February 2018, VFWAs are processed online. Staff apply through SSO, after discussing the request with their supervisor. An email prompts you as supervisor to endorse the request before proceeding (through an HR Hub when appropriate) to the Branch Head/Head of School for approval.

How do I decide whether to approve VFWA?

First make a thoughtful assessment of the request by exploring and discussing it with your staff member. Your conversation should address why they have asked for the arrangement and their ideas about how the arrangement can be accommodated at work. You may need to meet more than once before you have the information you need to make an informed decision. Ask yourself whether the arrangement can reasonably be accommodated. What “reasonable business needs” will you take into account? Do you need to check with your own supervisor about the impact for them? Most requests should be able to be accommodated, but you and your staff member may need to adjust the original request before progressing to an online application. For example, you may already have staff working part-time and the new request to take a particular day off as a reduced fraction would leave you without the staff you need on that day. Consider whether the arrangement would work on a different day and discuss this with your staff member.

If you agree to change your staff member’s start and/or finish times (and there is no increase/decrease to hours or change of work pattern) you should confirm this agreement in writing. In this situation, the online process isn’t required as this arrangement is managed locally.

How long should the VFWA last?

Arrangements should be reviewed at least annually, but you and your staff member can agree on the timeframe that suits you both. PDR conversations are a convenient time to check in and review the arrangement. It can be helpful to trial the arrangement for a few months first to see how it works for you and your staff member.

What happens to leave balances when a full-time staff member wants to reduce their fraction?

When a staff member asks to reduce their employment fraction, you should consider the impact on their leave balance. Under the new Enterprise Agreement, an annual leave balance of more than 30 days is in excess for a fulltime staff member (35 for shift workers).

The excess leave balance is pro-rata for part-time staff. Once a staff member starts working part time it is difficult to reduce excess leave. You can address an excess annual leave balance by approving a part-time arrangement on the condition that excess annual leave is taken first for the non-working days. Once the annual leave balance reduces below the pro-rata amount, the VFWA can take effect. If an arrangement already exists, you can address this when you talk to your staff member about renewing the arrangement.

Where can I learn more?

To find out more information about VFWAs and your role in the online process, click here. Or why not register to attend one of our informative workshops on VFWAs? Your HR Advisor is also available to partner with you to provide further support and advice for managing VFWAs.

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