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The triple threat: flexible work policies, workplace accommodation procedures and WSIB return to work

triplethreathYour company can ensure that it prepared to deal with requests for workplace accommodation on any of the prohibited human rights grounds and that it can provide compliance to WSIB Return to Work requirements by having a solid foundation of flexible work policies.

Well-designed flexible work policies help both managers and employees prepare for the unexpected. They give a framework for the sometimes difficult and contentious discussions around accommodation between the manager and the employee. It also demonstrates that the flexible work policies are not a preferential treatment for a select few but that they are available equitably to all employees depending on the circumstances and the need. Eventually we will all need some special treatment at some point.

Documentation

Put your flexible workplace arrangements – both the general policies and the specific agreed upon arrangements in writing.

Your organization should develop a standard, communicate it with all employees and then train managers on the implementation of different types of flexible work arrangements. These explicit procedures will ameliorate the manager and employee relationship through the process.

Furthermore, giving both the manager and employee accountability for correctly documented accommodation requests, decisions, implementation and tracking means that the process will be less disruptive your operation and less likely to end up in litigation. Finally if the situation does go into litigation, your manager will have the documentation necessary to show that your company attempted to provide a flexible work arrangement.

Some of the flexible work arrangements definitions from the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety are outlined below (source: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/flexible.html):

Flexible work arrangements

Flex time
Flex time is an arrangement where employees work a full day but they can vary their working hours. These arrangements are usually established with specific guidelines so that a “core” working day exists. It is a best practice to arrange flex time in advance with the employee and employer or supervisor so that a range of start and finish times are established. The total hours of work in a week are not usually affected by this arrangement. Employees are expected to manage their time so that they complete the given amount of hours within the week, the bi-weekly period or even a month.

Ideally employees should maintain their start/finish times so that a routine is established and co-workers can become accustomed to each other’s schedules. Flex time is helpful for scheduling around appointments and childcare.

Compressed work week
A compressed work week occurs when an employee works for longer periods of time per day or shift in exchange for a day off. Employees may start earlier or finish later than the normal work day. Compressed work weeks are often initiated by the employee, but sometimes the employer may initiate the option to improve operational efficiency, to maximize production or to establish longer business hours which can enhance customer service.

Common arrangements for a 40 hours work week are working 10 hours per day, 4 days a week; working an extra hour a day with 1 day off every 2 weeks; or working an extra half hour a day and having one day every 3 or 4 weeks off.

Reduced hours/Part-time
Employees may request to work fewer than the standard 37.5 or 40 hours work week. These arrangements may be on a temporary or permanent basis depending on individual circumstances. It may also be considered in some cases for employees with health problems or disabilities. Work hours may be negotiated, or they may be chosen to coincide with peak workload hours depending on the type of business.

Banking of Hours/ Annualized hours
This arrangement allows employees to choose, within negotiated boundaries, their days and hours of work to the maximum for a set period of time.

This period of time may be weekly, bi-weekly monthly or yearly. Extra hours are worked are banked and taken as paid time off at a later date. These arrangements are often a combination of flex time and compressed work week and can reduce the amount of overtime hours. These arrangements may be suited to fields where there is variation in demands.

Be flexible in a way that works for your organization

Provide options for flexible work arrangements that work for your business. Each employee and organization’s situation is unique, but the policies can guide you about how to be flexible in a constructive arrangement for both workplace parties.

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Marcia Scheffler

Human Resources Generalist at Wawel Villa
Marcia Scheffler, M.A., CHRP Candidate is a Human Resources Generalist with M.A. working full-time as a Senior HR Officer. She is interested in the intersection of human resources theory and current best practices in HR. Read more
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