Defence has released a new draft policy and guidance for Flexible Working Arrangements.

This is an overarching policy which then references separate “policy guidance” on Remote or Isolated Work (which despite its title, covers Working From Home), Flextime, Local Working Arrangements, Part-Time Work and Job Sharing. This mass of documentation has been issued to employees to provide feedback on 23 July!

Defence is asserting that flextime is a “Flexible Work Arrangement” (FWA). In fact, flextime is a time recording system and leave entitlement. It is not a flexible working arrangement in the same way as Part-Time Work, Job Sharing or Working From Home. We believe it should be a separate stand alone policy. What do you think?

The confusingly named “remote or isolated work” policy actually includes working from home. It is also said to include "work performed in places such as a hotel room or an airport lounge”! Is Defence seriously suggesting that these are appropriate work environs?

The new draft policy also appears to be a missed opportunity for Defence to embrace the new normal of working from home arrangements. While the policy does state that supervisors are “encouraged” to give favourable consideration to WFH requests, supervisors can reject these requests on “reasonable business grounds”. Unfortunately much of the FWA policy reads like a list of reasons why supervisors can reject applications rather than constructively engage with employees to work out an arrangement that works for the employee and Defence.

This is in stark contrast to other agencies such as the Department of Veterans' Affairs, which recently updated their policies, stating that: “Managers will genuinely consider requests for flexible work and support these arrangements where possible. Decisions to support requests will be based on the ability to maintain continuity of service to veterans and their families and that …. staff should work a minimum of 2 days per week in the office, prorated for part-time staff.”

Even intelligence agencies such as the Australian Signals Directorate that require employees to work in classified environments, have updated their policies, and allow staff to work from home one day a fortnight.

So what do we need to do?

Bad policies get promulgated when good union members do nothing! Please take the trouble to read these policies and send your feedback to APS Workplace relations and cc us in at [email protected] by COB Wednesday 21 July. CPSU representatives will be developing a submission based on your views.

Know someone who is not in the CPSU?

Then ask them to join today! Having a working life that is balanced with your personal and family needs is fundamental. They can join here.