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Why Aussies are one step closer to unlimited WFH: ‘Ground breaking’

Aussie public service workers have won uncapped WFH days.

Work from home employee. Workers in the city going to work.
Thousands of public sector employees will be able to access unlimited work from home. (Source: Getty/AAP)

More than 170,000 Aussie workers across the country will be able to work from home as much they want, following a landmark deal.

The deal, which was struck between the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and the Australian Public Service Commission, gives public service workers the right to request flexible working arrangements, with no caps on WFH days.

CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said the flexible work and WFH rights were “ground breaking” and would support employee attraction and retention.

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“Flexibility in how, when and where public sector work is done will see the APS become increasingly diverse, adaptable and accessible," Donnelly said.

“This is good news for public servants, public services, public policy, and the public.”

What is changing?

All Australian public service employees will be able to request flexible working arrangements, including WFH. There will be no caps on the number of days they can WFH in a week.

Agencies are required to “lean towards” approving requests. They can only refuse requests after genuinely trying to reach agreement and if there are clear business reasons” not to approve.

If they can’t genuinely try to reach an agreement, workers can challenge this and take it to the Fair Work Commission.

This covers around 174,000 workers in the federal, ACT and Northern Territory public sectors, telecommunications, call centres, employment services, commercial broadcasting, the aviation industry and science and research.

What does this mean for other workers?

While this decision doesn’t impact employees working for private companies, it could signal a step towards more flexible working arrangements in the future.

Anyone can currently request flexible working arrangements, Fair Work notes, but certain employees have a legal entitlement to make this request.

This includes employees who have worked for their employer for more than 12 months and who:

  • Is a parent of a school-aged or younger child;

  • Is a carer;

  • Has a disability;

  • Is 55 years or older; or

  • Is experiencing family violence or providing care to a family or household member experiencing family violence

In this case, employers can only refuse requests on “reasonable business grounds”. This could be because:

  • It would be too costly

  • There’s no capacity to change the working arrangement of other employees to accommodate the request

  • It would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees, or take on new employees, to accommodate the request

  • It would likely result in significant loss of efficiency or productivity, or have a significant negative impact on customer service.

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