As we head towards Autumn, many HR officers are wondering how the cooler months of the year will impact business. Will another COVID variant emerge… will it knock out the workforce… should we be introducing more structure into the workplace or leaving staff to decide whether to work from home or the office or both… and if both, on what basis? Interestingly, around the world, bigger companies are beginning to “put their foot down” on flexible working arrangements. Amazon, for instance, has announced that workers will be required to report in person to the office at least three days a week beginning in May. In a note to employees, chief executive Andy Jassy said senior managers had observed what workplace models work best and concluded that “being in person most of the time had distinct benefits, allowing employees to more easily share ideas, collaborate, train new hires, and connect”. 1 The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, requires workers based in Washington D.C. to report to headquarters three days a week, and Walt Disney recently told its staffers to be in the office four days a week.1 However, before getting heavy handed with the rules, it’s important for employers to realise local workforce sentiment – research shows that more than one in three Australians would resign if they couldn’t work from home.2 Indeed, according to National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States, flexible working arrangements are now a necessity for employees, with one in three Australians searching for jobs that include remote work.2 Australian employers are responding to this demand with the majority of advertisements on Seek including a reference to the option for a component of flexible work.2 According to Catherine Stephens, Associate Director of Law at BlueRock, “The way we work has been radically altered, and we now face a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine the social contract, rethink work and explore better ways of creating value. It isn’t about everyone working from home or the office, but instead about defining a new, hybrid world,” she said.2 “Moving forward, the hybrid-work policy should be developed in consultation with workers. Otherwise, businesses may struggle to retain employees or attract new talent.” Workers Have Rights Important to note is that according to FairWork Australia, permanent employees who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they: are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger, are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010), have a disability, are 55 or older, are experiencing family or domestic violence, or provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence. Additionally, casual employees can make a request if: they’ve been working for the same employer regularly and systematically for at least 12 months, or there’s a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis. All of this makes for a particularly complex workplace environment. One way to get around this is to engage contractors – whether from Australia or overseas – who will work on your terms. At The Ayers Group, we can assist you with contractor management and with arranging Visas for skilled international workers. With over 20 years in the business and a purpose-built customisable contractor management platform, we can minimise the administration associated with hiring contractors and help you maximise the returns. Talk to an expert at The Ayers Group today.