Legal Aid has recently commenced the rollout of its Flexible Workforce initiative. The initiative takes the form of a new Flexible Workforce Policy via a series of management webinars and team meetings to discuss flexible work going into the future. The PSA has some reservations about the speed of the rollout, however we are generally supportive of the direction and are committed to constructive engagement.
One source of confusion is the relationship between the Flexible Workforce Policy and Legal Aid NSW’s current high level of working from home under the COVID Public Health Order. The new policy is not a replacement for compliance with the Public Health Order, it is a modification of the underlying policy which will only come into full operation once the Public Health Order requirement for employers to allow staff to work from home is lifted. The policy was underway before the pandemic, and Legal Aid was piloting it for the entire Public Service.
The PSA has had meetings with Legal Aid HR about the policy and have been successful in having the principle “if not, why not”, and included a review mechanism into the policy. We have been advised that feedback via the Managers’ webinars has also called for these same policy improvements.
Consultation for the draft policy is still underway. Despite this, management is now rolling out team meetings to plan team-based approaches to flexible working. One difficulty caused by the rapid pace of rollout is that the policy many Managers are working off is an earlier one which does not emphasise the “if not why not” principle. Members should keep that in mind at these meetings.
We strongly advise our members to bring the principle of “if not, why not” to these team meetings. Members are entitled to take the position that you are entitled prima facie to any type of flexible work you want, and it is up to management to implement it if possible.
It also needs to be borne in mind that Flexible Work is more than just working from home. Part-time, job-sharing, compressed hours, modified bandwidth and core-time, as well as combining working from home and at the office should all be part of the mix. Members should put on the table exactly what they want in the future, both during and after COVID and the team meeting should then look at the combined mix. If objections are raised to particular ideas on the grounds of existing work practices, these objections should be reported to both your union via your delegate or your organiser Glenn Duncan.
The fast pace of this process makes the involvement of the union all the more important to ensure the best quality outcomes for all staff and a system which can be a model for the rest of the Public Service.
If you have suggestions on what flexible work should mean for Legal Aid, you want to get more involved, or have a colleague who wants to sign up to the PSA, please contact your delegates or the union office.
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