Caring and paid work: negotiating flexible work with your employer

Your employer may not immediately understand your needs as a carer and it is important to present a good business case for flexible working arrangements. 

Remember that your experience and skills are valuable and that it will cost your employer money to recruit and train somebody to replace you.

Your employer is likely to want to make sure that all your duties are covered without inconveniencing your customers or colleagues, that quality and service standards are maintained and that any flexibility they show you can be supported in a way that is fair and equitable to other staff.

Research the entitlements in your workplace

The entitlements in your workplace will include rights and conditions set out in many different documents.

Some workplace entitlements are set out in Australian or Victorian Legislation or in national Modern Awards. Others will be set out in the individual enterprise or other agreements negotiated between your employer and the people employed in your workplace. 


Most Victorian workers are entitled to workplace rights and conditions under the Fair Work Act 2009 or the Equal Opportunity Act 1995.

Read our advice on caring and paid work to find out more about rights that are particularly relevant to carers.

Modern Awards

Modern Awards came into effect on 1 January 2010 and cover most workplaces in Australia. They establish minimum workplace conditions for employers and employees who work in the same industries or occupations.

Enterprise agreements

Enterprise agreements outline the terms and conditions of employment negotiated between employers and employees in a particular workplace.  From 1 January 2010 no other types of agreement can be made in workplaces.

Other workplace agreements

Your workplace may be covered by an agreement made before 01 January 2010. Collective agreements, Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) and Individual Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs) were made under previous legislation and can remain in force until they are terminated or replaced.

Talk to your HR or personnel department, your union representatives or contact Fair Work Australia to find out what conditions might apply in your workplace.

Making a request

Before you make a request:

Consider how much you are prepared to disclose

Find out if your workplace has a privacy policy that protects your confidential information. Think about how much you are prepared to tell your employer about your caring responsibilities. You are not obliged to give sensitive details to support your request.

Test whether your workplace culture is carer friendly

Find out if other people in your workplace have caring responsibilities or have negotiated flexible working arrangements. Ask whether their management and colleagues have been supportive. Encourage them to talk, in confidence, about any difficulties they have had.

Prepare for objections

Think carefully about the difficulties you might face combining work and caring and try to come up with ideas for dealing with potential problems. Try to think about your employer's needs as well as your own.

Gather support

You may be able to ask other people to support your case – your manager or team leader, HR or personnel, your colleagues, or a union or staff representative.

Brush up negotiating skills

It will be easier to get what you want if you have planned your arguments in advance and tried to make a case that works for your employer as well as it does for you. Read our tips on negotiating.


For more information, read our fact sheet titled, 'Caring and paid work: your rights.'