Importance of Job Share: Navigating flexible work arrangements

1 July, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced that flexible working arrangements are more important than ever.

Under the National Employment Standards (NES), which apply to all employees covered by the national workplace relations system, certain employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Full-time school officers and teachers can request a change in their usual working arrangement from their employer if they require flexibility because they:

  • Are a parent or are responsible for the care of a child;
  • Are a carer;
  • Have a disability;
  • Are aged 55 or older;
  • Are experiencing domestic violence; or
  • Are providing care or support to a family member who is experiencing domestic violence.

One of the preferred flexible working arrangements for teachers and school officers and services staff is job sharing, a voluntary arrangement where one full-time position is split between two employees.

This means the duties, responsibilities, pay and other benefits of one full-time position are shared equally between two partners.

Applying for job share

Employees must have completed a minimum of 12 months of continuous service with an employer before being eligible to apply for a flexible working arrangement like job sharing.

An application for job share must be sent in writing to the employer and outline all the relevant information, including addressing relevant parts of their employer’s job share policy.

Employers have up to 21 days to respond to a job share application and must provide both applicants with written approval or refusal to their request within that time frame.

Rejections to job share proposals must be based upon real and reasonable grounds, which employers should provide to applicants.

If a job share proposal is rejected, applicants should be allowed the opportunity to constructively respond to the employer’s refusal, addressing any concerns and demonstrating they are willing to negotiate.

Our union’s Membership Services Officers are available to help check applications before submission and our Industrial Services Officers can provide assistance with drafting applications for job share.

Benefits for employees

Job share is often a popular option for new parents who are transitioning back to work or employees who are approaching retirement, as it provides them with the opportunity to achieve a better work/life balance.

IEUA-QNT member Amy Hughes, who teaches Prep at St Joseph’s Primary School in Bracken Ridge, said the benefits of job sharing are plentiful.

“There are many perks to job share,” Amy said.

“Primarily, I choose to work a reduced load because I have three young children.

“My job share partner, Chantelle, also has a young child, so job sharing allows us to continue in a career we are passionate about, whilst allowing time to be at home with our families,” Amy said.

Another positive about job sharing is the ability for employees to keep up to date with all the changes and new initiatives emerging in the education system and curriculum while raising children.

“When I return to full time hours in a few years, I will be confident that I am across all the necessary skills and understanding for all the extra things involved in teaching, such as the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD),” Amy said.

Amy said she has been fortunate to work with some amazing job share partners and having Chantelle as her partner was advantageous when planning and sharing ideas.

“We collaborate on all aspects of the class like planning for the differentiation of the curriculum, reporting, supporting students with extra needs,” Amy said.

“Both of us have different strengths, so often she’ll have great ideas about teaching the curriculum or catering for a need I haven’t thought of and vice versa.

“We learn a lot from each other,” she said.

Challenges of job share

A high level of trust and open communication is vital to a successful job share arrangement, as Amy can attest to.

“I have been fortunate to work with some of the most amazing job share partners, so for me, the challenges have been few, although the one thing I do sometimes struggle with is often feeling that you are playing catch up,” Amy said.

“So much happens in a day in a school, and so for the two days that I am not in the classroom, things can change quite rapidly.

“Fortunately, my partner and I communicate well, and we take the time to make sure the other person is aware of any changes or issues when have our handover conversation.

“We also work with an incredible team of teachers and school officers on our year level who ensure everyone is kept in the loop,” she said.

Benefits of job share

Amy believes more workplaces should be open to the idea of implementing flexible working arrangements including job share.

“There are many benefits for the employer too, because as an employee, I feel valued that my principal is so supportive of staff members engaging in job share arrangements,” Amy said.

“Feeling valued in the workplace increases productivity and boosts workplace morale,” she said.

Employers who offer flexible working arrangements are regarded as an “employer of choice”, which helps to recruit and retain talented employees and reduces the cost of replacing staff who leave.

Flexible working arrangements mean staff are more likely to return from parental leave and issues like workplace absenteeism or stress are reduced.

Value of union

Amy recognises the importance of the union movement, which has long fought to improve working conditions by advocating for flexible working arrangements.

“Throughout the pandemic, we all faced the challenge of continuing to do our jobs and care for our students while also managing our own personal risk,” she said.

“During that time when many teachers felt like they were not being considered, our union advocated for our wellbeing.

“During less urgent times, concerns such as work intensification and hours of duty can be difficult issues to navigate.

“Having guidance and support from our union is vital to ensuring teachers and school officers have a voice,” Amy said.

Assistance when you need it

One of the many benefits of union membership is expert industrial advice and assistance.

All members can find out more about the job share provisions applicable in their school or sector by contacting our Member Services Officers.

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