Thousands of public workers will benefit from a new working policy implemented by Government.
In a bold move, the island’s largest employer has answered the call of workers who asked for a change in the current working arrangement given the start of the Michaelmas term on Monday.
Reports reaching Barbados TODAY confirm that public workers, many of whom are parents, were concerned about the challenges they may face given the staggered school hours which have been introduced by the Ministry of Education.
However, in a memo sent by the Acting Head of the Public Service Cecile Humphrey, Government has given workers a number of options from which to choose. These are: compressed week; flexi-time; staggered hours; and telecommuting.
Barbados TODAY obtained a copy of that memo as well as the 22-page document entitled: Flexible Work Arrangement Policy, which was disseminated today.
The memo reads: “It has been drawn to my attention that Public Officers have been making enquiries concerning their work arrangements when school reopens Monday, September 21, 2020. The Flexible Work Arrangement Policy, a copy of which is appended should serve
as a guide should queries arise.”
A reliably source told Barbados TODAY that while there was “an unofficial flexi-time approach” being used in recent times, there was a need to make it more structured especially given the peculiarities which have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Given the start of the new school year, teachers would need flexi-time as well as other classification of workers across the public sector, many of who are parents. So there was a definite need to address the issue in a formal way now.”
President of the National Union of Public Workers Akanni McDowall has welcomed the news.
“The union has been in support of the Flexible Working Policy for some time. We believe that there needs to be a work life balance especially for those public servants who have to manage life at work and their family at home. We have been advocating for a flexible working policy.
“The working policy can carry many forms and I think the document explains all of those forms that it can carry. We are certainly in favour of those options that will be available for public servants so that they can choose what is most comfortable for them. The point of the working policy for the union is that we are focusing on output rather than physical time at work,” he told Barbados TODAY.
The process for applying for the flexi-time was also outlined in the document. Employees must send a written letter either by email or a hard copy to their Head of Department.
The document reads: “The request must be evaluated by the Head of Department and a written response given within 28 days after the date of receipt. This time limit may, however, be extended with the agreement of both the employee and Head of Department . . .
“The Head of Department will consider the proposed flexible working arrangements, evaluating the potential benefits and adverse effects to the employee and to the organisation in implementing the proposed changes. Each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis.”
The four options, as stated in the policy, will allow for the following:
• Compressed Week where an employee works his usual number of full- time hours in fewer days by working longer blocks of time per day.
This ensures that the fundamental terms of the employment contract are maintained regarding consideration by both employee and employer. To illustrate, the total number of hours in a standard work week may be.”
• Flexi-time allows the management of an agency and an employee to agree, within certain limits, when to begin and end the work day, where the work period can vary from day to day. The basic requirement of any flexi-time work schedule programme is that:
(a) the employee must work the mandatory number of hours that comprise the standard work week; and (b) each employee must be present during core time.
• Staggered Hours is a concept where the start and end time of work hours for employees may vary whilst the employees complete
a period of work that is equal to a standard work day (e.g.7:30 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.; 8 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.; 9 a.m. – 5:15 p.m.; and
10 a.m. – 6:15 p.m.) as agreed by the Head of the Department and the employee. By staggering employee arrival and departure times, the employer may also reduce some bottlenecks in other areas such as at the security checkpoint and in the use of elevators.
• Telecommuting means an approved arrangement whereby an employee is required to perform specific work-related duties
from home or other remote location, for a specified period.
Each ministry/department will be required to review its operational and resource requirements to determine whether the nature of specific job roles may be subject to remote working arrangements. However, a telecommuting schedule will not attract overtime or special payments.