Policy Agenda

Flexible workplaces in the legal profession

The Law Council is committed to assisting members of the legal profession to reach their full potential through flexible workplace practices. Where ‘presenteeism’ was once an integral part of typical law firm culture, advances in technology and changed attitudes have assisted workplaces and their employees to adopt flexible working policies and programs, including flexible hours and working outside of the office, including from home. Flexible workplace arrangements can maximise employees’ productivity and wellbeing, assisting them to deliver the best results for their employer. Flexible workplace practices can greatly assist lawyers to balance their work responsibilities with their other pursuits and priorities, including for example, family and carer responsibilities, community responsibilities, and other endeavours.

Below are some resources that may assist firms in developing flexible workplace policies and translating these policies into practice.

What are flexible workplace arrangements?

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman flexible workplace arrangements can include the following:

Under Part 2-2, Divisions 4 and 5 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) an employee may request a change in working arrangements if certain circumstances apply to them, including where the employee:

Employer responsibilities regarding flexible workplace arrangements

Employers who receive a request must give a written response within 21 days saying whether the request is granted or refused. They can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds. If a request is refused, the written response must include the reasons for the refusal. Further information about this is available on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.

As more people work outside the office, there is a potential for additional risks to arise, including employee or client injury and cyber risks associated with using phones and computers outside of the office. Law firms should address these risks by providing appropriate training and policies and ensuring their insurance policies cover flexible workplace arrangements.

Discrimination

Issues raised by flexible workplace arrangements can intersect with issues of discrimination. It is important for employers to be aware of their responsibilities under relevant anti-discrimination legislation. For instance, note that under the Fair Work Act, Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee on the grounds of pregnancy, sex, disability, family and/or carers’ responsibility. An employer may be personally liable under relevant laws if it is found their workplace has engaged in unlawful discrimination.

Examples of flexible working arrangements in the legal profession

Workplaces might offer their own policies and procedures regarding flexible workplace arrangements. Such policies might include provision for both formal and informal flexibility, and there is an increase in the number of organisations offering flexible working of some sort for all employees and principals. The most successful flexible work policies are implemented with clear support from leadership, input from employees, clear guidelines and communication, and open discussion of barriers and challenges as well as solutions to those challenges (within workgroups and more broadly).

Below are some examples from Law Council Constituent Bodies and other legal organisations who have created helpful guidelines and resources on flexible workplace arrangements:

Share

Tags

Most recent items


Trending Items