Flexible work practices may have benefits to both the employer and employee. When legally implemented, they lead to better job satisfaction and therefore attract and retain staff. Workplace flexibility has the ability to improve productivity and efficiency by maintaining a motivated workforce.
The Fair Work Act 2009 legislates to promote workplace flexibility with the use of Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFAs). An IFA once agreed upon, allows variations to Security Services Industry Award 2010 or an enterprise agreement to meet the needs of employers or individual employees while maintaining minimum entitlements and protections.
The Security Services Industry Award 2010 and enterprise agreements set out the minimum terms and conditions of employment. They apply to many employees and therefore may not take into account the circumstances of individual employees. Every modern award and enterprise agreement has a â€˜flexibility termâ€™.
A flexibility term allows an employer and an individual employee to agree to vary the effect of the Security Services Industry Award 2010 or enterprise agreement to meet the needs of the employer and that individual employee.
The Fair Work Act 2009 ensures these arrangements do not undermine minimum employee entitlements. It requires the employer to ensure the employee covered by the Individual Flexibility Agreement is better off compared to the modern award or enterprise agreement.
An employee or employer can request an IFA be considered. The employer is required to assess whether the employeeâ€™s financial benefits under the Individual Flexibility Agreement is better than the financial benefits under the Security Services Industry Award 2010 or the enterprise agreement. Another consideration taken into account is the employeeâ€™s personal circumstances and any non-financial benefits.
An employee cannot be forced to sign an Individual Flexibility Agreement or be treated unfairly for refusing to agree to an IFA. It remains the employerâ€™s responsibility to ensure that the employee has genuinely agreed to the conditions of an IFA.
The employer should be aware of any language differences that influence the employeeâ€™s understanding of the terms of the IFA. An employer cannot make a prospective employee sign an Individual Flexibility Agreement a condition of employment.
When you commence employment with an employer, you will be presented with a number of documents to sign. Be careful to read each one. If one of the documents dictates the amount of wages you are paid or any working conditions, ask to take the document away for time to consider it.
If your prospective employer does not permit this, then beware, the document is probably an IFA which has clauses that are to your detriment. Report this employer to the Fair Work Ombudsman as it is illegal to present an IFA at the commencement of employment. The Fair Work Act 2009 dictates that an IFA can only be made after the employee has commenced work.
If your employer proposes an Individual Flexibility Agreement after you have started working for the company, take this document and compare the wages and conditions against those contained in the Security Services Industry Award 2010. If you are a union member consult your union as to whether the conditions of the IFA are to your benefit or detriment.
If you do not belong to a union, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman and ask their opinion. Once you have checked it and have decided the conditions are not to your detriment then sign and return it. When you have signed it, the employer is required to furnish you with a copy. If you still have further doubts then contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Be aware that some employers prey on employees' ignorance when it comes to working entitlements. If you have inadvertently signed an IFA and the pay and conditions in that agreement are below that which is in the Security Services Industry Award 2010, you cannot be held to that IFA.
See the Pay Calculator page to determine whether what you are being paid is above or below the award pay rate. Contact the Fair Work Ombudsman and present your copy of the Individual Flexibility Agreement along with your account of the circumstances under which you signed it.
For a more detailed example of what can be varied with an IFA go to this page How to use Individual Flexibility Agreements
An employee is able to terminate an Individual Flexibility Agreement if they consider they are being disadvantaged and are able to take action for compensation and penalties. If an employer fails to ensure that an IFA is made in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009, they are liable for a penalty of up to $10,200 for an individual or $51,000 if a body corporate.
The Individual Flexibility Agreement should include how it is able to be terminated either by agreement or by either party giving a written notice. The Security Services Industry Award 2010 requires 13 weeksâ€™ notice but this may vary in an enterprise agreement.
An IFA made in accordance with a the Security Services Industry Award 2010 or an enterprise agreement will terminate when a new enterprise agreement starts to operate.