There’s a growing opinion amongst younger generations, that working in a 9-5 job, with the same company until retirement and pensions, is not a dream of theirs, that is shared by their parents and grandparents.

Instead, moving through various roles and multiple career paths is the norm. Roles that provide meaning and purpose, plus time to enjoy the extra-circular activities they love, or looking after growing families, are relished and revered. Workplace flexibility provisions can become a great recruitment tool, engagement booster and overall productivity improvement model.

Award Flexibility

Award flexibility clauses can be found in all 122 Modern Awards. An employer and individual employees can agree to vary award clauses regarding:

  1. Arrangements when work is performed;
  2. Overtime rates;
  3. Penalty rates;
  4. Allowances; and
  5. Leave loading.

These variations should meet the genuine needs of both parties. Importantly, these agreements can only be entered into once the employee has commenced work with the employer. They must be in writing (there’s specific requirements regarding what the agreement must say, which we can help write) and the agreement must demonstrate how the employee is better off overall.

Traditional Gender Roles and Flexibility

These award provisions are useful in some circumstances and for many people, any access to workplace flexibility is appreciated. However, flexible working conditions can come with their own stigma. According to a study by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women, shared by the Workplace Gender Equity Agency (WGEA), men working flexible hours were 6 times less likely to be engaged with their company; feeling judged and less supported. This was in stark contrast to the female workers, who reported to be more satisfied and equally, or more satisfied with their careers. Perhaps, with traditional gender roles regarding home, family and work life, expecting men to be the bread winner, this stereotype isn’t easily overcome.

Technology and Flexibility

Will these social norms continue through to the Gen Z’s workplace, or are flexible workplace terms becoming expected for both men and women, throughout their careers? As our access to technology improves, so does the cross-over between work and personal life, through email alerts, ‘just a quick message’ notifications late in the evening, and voice recognition assistants reminding us of tomorrow’s to-do list. As the lines get blurred, the legislative and common-sense frameworks of managing ‘work-time’ and ‘personal-time’ need to adjust. We know first-hand that flexibility is critical for our business, and that of our team. Whether working from home, working varied hours depending on personal commitments, or starting and leaving early, flexibility works both ways.

What’s next for Flexibility?

Perhaps as a sign of the times, a provisional clause for family friendly working arrangements has been released by the Fair Work Commission, with opportunity for interested parties to comment before Friday 1 June 2018. You can read the Provisional Model Term and find details on how to comment, here. Once finalised, it’s expected that Modern Awards will have a family friendly flexibly clause, to complement the existing Award Flexibility clause.


If creating a business that allows flexible working conditions is on your to-do list, have a chat with our team about what’s working for us and what we’ve learned along the way. From there, we can provide you with the tools and resources you need to manage a more flexible workplace yourself.