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Why we're afraid to ask for a flexible work week

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Many Aussies would love to work from home or do their 40 hour week over four days instead of five but are worried about the career implications, according research by recruiting experts Hays.

In a website poll of 3248 skilled professionals an overwhelming 94% would prefer to work flexibly if it didn't disadvantage their career. Just 3% said flexible working isn't on their list of priorities.

"From slower promotional pathways to less access to learning and development, a low profile within the organisation and even a loss of status, there is a feeling that the career of employees who work flexibly can suffer," says Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand.

flexible working work conditions

"Flexible working shouldn't come with any career limitations. Often these are the result of an employer or line manager making assumptions about the career motivations of the employee concerned. But each person is unique, with her or his own motivations and career goals."

Of course there are some jobs that flexible hours or working from home isn't an option but according to the Fair Work Ombudsman, employees who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • have a disability
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

If you want to ask for flexible work arrangements your request should be in writing, explain what changes are being asked for and explain the reasons for the request.

The Fair Work website has some example letters you can use.

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Maria Bekiaris is editorial campaigns manager for Canstar and former deputy editor of Money. She holds a Bachelor's degree in business.
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