Eligible small businesses with less than 15 employees can apply for a grant of up $15,000 to put in place family-friendly arrangements in their workplaces.
This second round of grants form part of the Australian Government’s $12 million Fresh Ideas for Work and Family Grants Program, created to support Australian small businesses to implement practices that help employees balance their work and family obligations.
Successful recipients of grants in Round 1 of this program put in place practices such as, agreements between employees and employers for flexible working hours, and agreements for some employees to work from home in order to spend more time with their kids. Some businesses installed family rooms within their offices.
Research shows that these kind of flexible working arrangements help businesses to retain their valuable staff, reduce turnover costs, increase productivity and improve staff morale and customer satisfaction.
The Fair Work System also provides all working families with access to a number of entitlements to help them balance work and family.
- 12 months unpaid parental leave for new parents – one of the ten legislated National Employment Standards. Like annual leave, public holidays and redundancy pay, unpaid parental leave is guaranteed to all employees covered by the new national Fair Work system.
- A parent’s right to request flexible work arrangements like returning to work part time or an additional 12 months unpaid leave to help care for children under school age. The ‘right to request’ will help Australia maximise workforce participation and ensure employers can retain skilled and experienced employees in the future. An employer can refuse a request on ‘reasonable business grounds’ but must provide their reasons for the refusal in writing. A refusal without reasons is insufficient.
The Australian Government is also introducing legislation for a government-funded paid parental leave scheme later this year to help working families better balance work and family responsibilities.
Applications for the second funding round of the Fresh Ideas for Work and Family Grants Program will close on 31 March 2010.
To apply for a grant, small businesses can go to www.deewr.gov.au/freshideas to complete the online application form, or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 (open 8.00am–6.00pm, Monday to Friday) for further information.