Elizabeth Kenny

Requests for flexible work arrangements? Ignore them at your peril!

July 18, 2019

The Fair Work Commission recently ordered an employer (Chesson) to pay over $20,000 in compensation to a former employee (Knutson) for refusing to implement flexible work arrangements.

Knutson worked for Chesson for three years with consistent work hours each week. In September 2017, Chesson proposed to extend the working day by 30 minutes in a new employment contract. The new hours interfered with Knutson’s pre-paid exercise classes two days a week and she requested that she finish 15 minutes earlier on those days and take a shorter lunch break to make up for this. Chesson rejected this proposal and insisted that Knutson sign the new contract. When Knutson refused to sign, her employment was terminated via an informal email. She then filed a claim for unfair dismissal with the Fair Work Commission.

Commissioner Cambridge concluded that Chesson’s refusal to negotiate flexible working conditions for their employee was unreasonable. He also commented on the inappropriateness of using email to terminate an employee, describing it as ‘callous’ and ‘harsh’. Cambridge awarded Knutson with compensation of over $20,000 (the equivalent of 17 weeks’ pay).

Amongst other matters, the case highlights the importance of employers allowing employees to negotiate flexible arrangements.

If you have further questions regarding the above issues or require assistance in employment matters, please give us a call at Signature Law on 02 4861 2345.