By CCH Senior Writer Belinda Sundaraj
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has acknowledged that the right to request flexible working hours or a second year of parental leave under the National Employment Standards are completely unenforceable rights. On an appearance on the ABC’s 7.30 Report on 4 January 2010 Ms Gillard stated that the point of the rights was to facilitate a “conversation employer to employee”. If that conversation goes nowhere or the employer refuses for reasons that are not “reasonable business grounds” the employee has no recourse.
The provisions are not civil remedy provisions, meaning there is no enforcement body to complain to if they are breached and no penalty can be imposed. (See blog entry dated January 8 2010)
So if there is no way to enforce these rights how will they be dealt with at an enterprise level? Will your approach be to comply with the spirit of the law and take such requests seriously, granting them where appropriate? Or does the lack of enforceability mean that such requests to accommodate staff will be denied even if the inconvenience will be small? Does “refusal must be on reasonable business grounds” mean anything if no one is watching? Or does the benefit of being a flexible employer who appeals to staff with children outweigh the inconvenience? Will you be hardline or easygoing on this issue?