Individual Flexibility Arrangements

17 October 2017 - Updated: 2 June 2021

A culture of workplace flexibility brings value and benefits to employers as well as employees. Consequently, the Fair Work Ombudsman supports the use of individual flexibility arrangements (IFAs) to vary modern awards or enterprise agreements in a fair and appropriate manner.

Flexible work can mean anything from part-time and casual hours, flexible starting and finishing times, flexible hours worked per week, rostered days off, and unpaid leave. Arrangements like these can have enormous benefits for employees trying to balance other commitments in their life, whether it be caring for children, elderly parents, a partner or another family member, pursuing further study, travelling or doing voluntary work in the community.

But there are notable benefits to employers as well, including increased productivity, higher retention of staff, due to increased job satisfaction and lower stress, and a workforce of adaptable, committed people who are able to adjust to an unpredictable business environment with differing needs over time. If an employee is offered flexibility to help them achieve balance in their life, they’re more likely to assist the practice with its own flexibility needs when a big project or competition hits.

It’s also important to value and recognise the contribution of people’s out-of-office lives to their work in architecture. Ideas, inspiration and experiential learning often come from time spent out in the world, directly observing the needs of a local community, experiencing the existing public spaces, viewing first-hand other people’s work, and being an active participant in community life.

What is an IFA?

The Fair Work Act 2009 supports flexibility in the workplace through the use of individual flexibility arrangements (IFAs). IFAs attempt to meet the needs of individual employees and employers by allowing variations to modern awards or enterprise agreements while ensuring that minimum protections and entitlements are still met.

What can be included in an IFA?

With a modern award, there are five matters that can be altered by an IFA:

  • when work is performed
  • overtime rates
  • penalty rates
  • allowances
  • leave loading

These flexible arrangements can only be made if overall the employee is ‘better off’ under the IFA.

If an IFA is to be made under an enterprise agreement, the employer and employee can only vary those terms that are set out in the flexibility term of the enterprise agreement. These matters are determined when the enterprise agreement is made.

Establishing and terminating an IFA

You can approach one of your staff members to request an IFA at any time, and they also have the option to do so. In either case, it’s your responsibility as an employer to ensure that the staff member is ‘better off’ overall under the IFA. If you wish to introduce an IFA for an employee, you will need to present your request in writing.

Next up is a meeting between you and your employee to discuss the suggested flexible arrangements. If an agreement is reached, the detail of the IFA is put in writing, stating what terms of the award or enterprise agreement have been varied, how the changes will apply, and how the employee is better off. Terms for the future termination of the agreement should also be included in the IFA. This may be by mutual agreement or the written notice of one party or the other. Modern awards require 13 weeks’ notice, but enterprise agreements may differ.

Both you and your employee must sign the agreement, and then retain a copy for your records.

Note that no-one can be forced into an IFA. Both parties have the right to refuse. As an employer, you cannot make an IFA a condition of employment.

If you fail to ensure that an IFA is properly made in accordance with the Fair Work Act, you may be liable to a penalty of up to $13,200 for an individual or $66,000 if the employer is a body corporate.

Further information

If you’re considering establishing an IFA for one or more of your employees, head to the Fair Work Ombudsman website to read more about individual flexibility arrangements and the Best Practice Guide: Use of individual flexibility arrangements.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also has a template for employers responding to a request for an flexible work arrangement, available on the Templates and Guides section of the website.