While many individuals struggle to maintain their 2012 New Year’s resolutions, companies and their employees enter the Year of the Dragon with newly granted flexibility. As of January 2012, Manitoba employees can request that employers consider and implement individual “flex time” work schedules.

What is Flex Time?
In Manitoba, flex time is an individual agreement between an employee and their employer that changes the standard hours of work for the individual. The current standard work schedule is eight hours in a day and forty hours in a week. Beyond this, employees are eligible to be paid overtime for hours worked. Subject to eligibility considerations, an employee can apply to work up to a maximum of ten hours in a day without payment of overtime. This means that a flex time agreement can pave the way for a four-day, forty-hour workweek when agreed upon by both the employee and employer.

Who is Eligible for Flex Time Agreements?
Both hourly and salaried employees who work more than 35 hours per week are eligible to request a flex time schedule. However, individual flex time agreements are only available to non-union represented employees. The terms and conditions of employment for union-represented employees are contained in collective agreements and, as such, there is no opportunity for individual agreements to be made regarding terms and conditions of employment. 

How Does an Employee Request Flex Time?
It is up to an eligible employee to request an individual flex time agreement. Employers cannot unilaterally implement a flex time shift arrangement, nor can employers insist on flex time shift arrangements as a term or condition of employment.

Individual requests must be made in writing by the employee and must outline the requested flex time arrangement. Employers have the flexibility to review and either approve or decline requests. It should be noted that flex time shifts greater than 10 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week are not permitted.

Once approved in writing, a flex time work schedule remains in effect for the agreed upon duration. An agreed upon flex time schedule can be cancelled with 14 days of notice from either the employer or the employee unless a shorter period is mutually agreed upon.

Who Benefits from Flex Time?

Properly implemented and administered flex time agreements must consider the benefits to employees, employers and to internal and external customers. Individual requests from employees that have a negative overall impact on the delivery of products or services to internal or external customers should be avoided. It is essential that employees consider the impacts and potential benefits of their request for an individual flex time agreement on all parties when applying for a flex time agreement.

What can Possibly Go Wrong?
There is an old saying in employee relations circles warning that, “no good deed goes unpunished.” This principle requires careful consideration in the context of employer reviews of requests for individual flex time schedules. If properly and carefully considered and implemented, individual flex time schedules can provide employees and employers with significant benefits. However, if mishandled, a myriad of serious problems can arise in the workplace.

Careful planning, implementation and communication are essential to ensure that flex time does not become a workplace dragon in 2012 and beyond.

To Learn More: Attend the Legacy Bowes Group breakfast seminar “Flex Time Getting Your Organization Ready” at 7:30am on Friday February 3, 2012. This breakfast seminar will be of interest to business owners, managers and human resources staff. To register, email reception@legacybowes.com or visit www.legacybowes.com/events to learn more.