Should flexible work hours be a legal right?
The federal government wants you to be able to work from home in your pyjamas.
If passed, a new employment rule would require federally regulated employers to consider flexible work arrangement requests. Employers would only be able to decline a request on business grounds with evidence to support the refusal.
The proposed employment rule would affect about 6 per cent of working Canadians (federally regulated employers include bank, transportation, telecommunications and other Crown corporations). Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and parts of the United States have already introduced legislation that encourages flex work.
While aimed only at federally regulated employees, the new rule would provide an “important opportunity to consider other potential legislative and non-legislative approaches for enhancing flexibility in work arrangements for Canadians” according to a discussion paper released by the federal government earlier this week.
What does a flexible workplace mean for you?
Flex work arrangements improve work-life balance, reduce stress and increase job satisfaction. Employees who can work flexible hours are more productive, take fewer sick days and stay in their jobs longer. According to one survey, about 75 per cent of businesses world wide already offer flexible working policies.
The federal government cites many reasons why flex work is important: family, educational and cultural obligations can be better balanced when flex work is an option. Physical and mental health are also improved when flex work is an option.
In addition, millennials (the fastest growing segment of Canada’s workforce) often expect or even demand flexible working arrangements from their employers. The new employment rule would encourage employers to think about catering to a younger workforce, which could improve employee engagement and retention.
“There are many reasons why someone might need a little more flexibility in their schedule, and under our plan they would have the formal right to request it,” says the press release.
For me, a 27-year-old with no family care obligations, flexible work arrangements mean I could work more hours at my second job or work from home sometimes.
For others, flexible work arrangements could mean being able to work when you’re most productive (for example, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. vs. the typical 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.), stress-free day care pick-ups or being able to offer better, more affordable care for an elderly family member.
Whatever your reason for wanting flexible work hours, anyone with an office job knows that being at your desk from 9-to-5 does not mean that you are working all day.
The future of the workplace is changing, and if that means all Canadians could one day have the reasonable legal right to work when they want, where they want, everyone benefits.
Want to share your opinion? The federal government invites you to speak up online and though in-person consultations in the coming weeks.