As most of you probably know we are pretty big advocates of flexible work, we even won the inaugural Sir Ken Robinson Award for Workplace Flexibility last year from the Australian Human Resources Institute. One of the things we come across regularly is barriers to flexible work that are in old policies, procedures and even legislation. These barriers contribute to the appalling rates of unemployment and under-employment of people with disabilities in Australia. Until we can move past these restrictions on people even to ask for flexible work we won't do anything to improve the shocking statistics that are every day life for people with disabilities who want to work.
The Fair Work Amendment Act
The Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 was lauded as ensuring all Australians have the right to flexible working conditions.
This amendment to the Act enshrines the ‘right to ask’ for flexible working conditions in any new workplace or enterprise agreements in the future as a non-negotiable minimum entitlement.
The Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 gives parents, carers and people with a disability the right to ask their employer for flexible working conditions after twelve months continuous employment as either a permanent part time, or permanent full-time staff member. Long term casual workers may have the same right to ask after a longer period of time.
If you’re a person with a disability, you must be eligible for the Disability Support Pension as well.
So unless your disability is acquired in an accident of some sort or is the result of a sudden illness onset, you are expected to do 12 months continuous work for the same employer, before you have the right (in statutory terms) to ask for flexible working conditions.
In reality, all that’s changed since the Fair Work Act 2009 is that people with a disability now have the right to ask, after they have completed a year with their employer, and there is a formal process for ‘asking’, which must be in writing, and to which the employer must respond within 21 days.
How does this differ to other countries who are part of the OECD?
There are significant differences between Australian law and that of other countries in the OECD. The first is the time period elapsed before a statutory right to ask for flexible work kicks in. In the United Kingdom, for example, the statutory waiting period is 26 weeks, and anyone has the right to ask after that time, and there are no restrictions on who has the right to ask.
In Denmark, one of the best performers in employing people with a disability with flexible working, the government has taken a different approach. People with a disability in Denmark are eligible to receive the normal full amount of pay for a job, with the additional flexible working condition of reduced or flexible hours, for which an employer receives a subsidy of one third of the wage from the Danish government. People with a disability are initially employed with flexible work conditions under the scheme, and their rights to flexible working are enshrined in legislation.
In Australia, you must be employed by the same employer for 12 months, have caring or parenting responsibilities, or be caring for a family member who has experienced domestic violence, or have personally experienced domestic violence, be 55 years or over, or have a disability (and qualify for the Disability Support Pension).
There are also legislated directions on why employers can refuse a right to ask, which are specific and narrow. Australian legislation has a very broad range of reasons an employer can refuse flexible working, including ‘reasonable business grounds’.
Reasonable business grounds, the Fair Work Commission states, includes the cost of implementing a flexible working agreement, other employees arrangements cannot be changed to accommodate such a request, it is impractical to hire new employees to job share or work part-time, the change would negatively impact on customer service or a significant loss of productivity.
The bottom line remains that Australian law is more prescriptive about the right to ask as a minimum employment condition than other jurisdictions. And, particularly so when it comes to people with a disability.
What the Danish government has done openly acknowledges and encourages flexible working conditions for people with a disability from the outset of their employment. Many people with a disability are better able to manage their condition if they are able to work part-time, and from home. This acknowledgement allows the development of legislation and policies that directly addresses employer barriers to offering flexible working conditions for people with a disability.
Why do employers reject flexible working conditions?
There are many benefits for businesses who agree to flexible working conditions for their staff for any reason, not just people with a disability. Employee retention, employee satisfaction, improved productivity, less sick leave and carer’s leave taken, access to a bigger talent pool, reduced business travel, effective virtual teams, more agile infrastructure and reduced overheads. And there are many businesses and employers who realise the benefits of flexible working.
In Australia, the reasons for rejecting a request for flexible work include the term ‘reasonable business grounds’. The Fair Work Commission website defines reasonable business grounds as flexible work arrangements ‘cost’ too much, disturb other employees working arrangements, if it is not possible to hire new employees or change other employees working arrangements to accommodate the request, if there is a negative impact on either productivity or customer service. However, the Act itself does not contain a definition of ‘reasonable business grounds’, so it is open to interpretation.
To people with a disability, however, the problem isn’t the reason for knocking back a request for flexible work, it’s the extreme difficulty of accessing even the right to ask. For many people, the roadblock is simple. Many people with a disability would like to work, but without flexible working conditions their capacity to work is significantly decreased. That makes applying for jobs in your chosen field of expertise very difficult, if you’re looking for skilled work.
A Joint future
If Australia is to genuinely raise the workforce participation rate of people with a disability, there’s two parts of the economy that need to work together. Employers need to openly acknowledge, as in Denmark, that there are significant business advantages to offering flexible working conditions at the point where recruitment takes place.
And governments need to legislate the right to ask as a minimum employment condition for people with a disability right from the word ‘go’.
Without the imperative to consider flexible working arrangements, people with a disability will remain the sector with the highest unemployment rate, and business will remain office based, non-agile, and miss out on one of the best professional talent pools going.
There is so much advice around the web on what constitutes a good resume and what elements should or should not go into one; the truth is though that there is no one size fits all formula for creating the perfect resume. It is not a case of getting everything in the right order and “bingo” the job is yours.
The Purpose of a Resume
The most important thing to remember about a resume is that it is about getting you to the interview stage. Certainly, the relevant decision makers will look at the resume after the interview to compare candidates but ultimately, it needs to grab their attention. What should go into the resume?
Qualifications: in this competitive employment marketplace, employers want to see the education-based experiences. A degree in English can say much in itself but if you are applying for a communications role, you need to give academic examples that are relevant.
Work experience: and not just from previous job though this is very important, but any experience that may be relevant to the role. This could be from voluntary work, personal interests or hobbies.
Abilities are different from experience in that you know what you can do, even if you cannot demonstrate it through on the job experience, through voluntary roles or in your qualifications.
Highlight Your Abilities
The key to a modern resume is experiences, particularly practical experiences and the identifiable abilities that you gain and have gained from those experiences. Employers want to see that you will be an asset to the business and this is how you need to market your abilities – those that are relevant and how they are relevant.
The first thing to do is look at the job description. Most will state the key skills that are required in the role. Though some will be generic “good organisational skills”, “works under own initiative” and “flexible”, some will be more specific than this: “good knowledge of MS Excel” for example. If you have a certificate of training to a higher level for that software package, or you have learnt advanced features of the software and can list an example, then make it relevant: “I designed a stock programme in Excel to keep track of petty cash” you will have demonstrated a core ability.
One element that people now include in their resumes is a list of highlights. These can be changed and tailored to each application; listing seven or eight bullet points that are relevant will present the employer with what they are looking for without having to search your resume for it and you may expand on these points later in the resume if you need to. The highlights bullet list should be a mix of experience, qualifications and achievements.
If the role is similar to one you have had before, or is a niche job that you have qualifications for, then imagine yourself already in the role. List the skills that you believe will be relevant to the job based on your previous work experience.
So keeping in the theme of our our last two blog posts, I'm sure you're all wondering how much does it cost to set up a home office?
Hardware technology for a home office is no longer as restrictive as it once used to be. With telework growing, it is quite clear that the cost of purchasing all necessary equipment is accessible to far more people. So, what might you need and how much will it cost?
- Furniture – whether you use a laptop or desktop, you are going to need a suitable desk and chair. A basic computer desk with storage compartments and a shelf for a keyboard will start from around $130. A sofa chair, dining chair or high chair of a breakfast bar will not be good for posture. A good adjustable office chair starts from around $30
- Internet – you will need access to the internet for telework – a home office simply cannot survive without it. There are a range of deals available in Australia – a typical 70GB monthly package will cost in the region of $50 per month
- Computer – Your most basic piece of equipment. A desktop or laptop will be a matter of personal taste but a laptop will be cheaper and you can carry it around. A desktop may be more comfortable for the extended periods of use. Entry level price $400
- Printer – You may or may not need one of these depending on your work. Multi-function devices (printer, scanner photocopier) are most popular these days. Starting price $150
- Telephone – these are relatively cheap but as a homeworker you may get lots of phone calls so a model with a built in answerphone may be preferable here. Starting price $50
There’s so much freely available technology and no need to invest in expensive packages:
- VOiP – Skype, Jitsi, VSee and Google Hangouts all offer a range of phone and video call options, video conferencing and text based communication (IM). All are suitable for the home worker
- Office software – There’s no need to invest in the latest MS Office package when LibreOffice, OpenOffice and NeoOffice are useful emulators and even use Microsoft formats so you needn’t worry about incompatibility with others
- Sharing –Google Docs and Zoho Docs are both free. Evernote allows you to grab web pages, images, audio clips, to make lists and share them across multiple devices and people instantly
- Multimedia – Paint.Net and GIMP are superb open source versions of Paint Shop and Photoshop
Do you know of any other great free products you can use in the office? Leave us a comment below with all of your ideas, I'd love to hear from you.