Flexible work arrangements
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What is a flexible work arrangement
The Canada Labour Code (Code) provides rights and protections for employees working in federally regulated workplaces. Many of these rights and protections help employees balance work and home life.
Flexible work arrangements are changes to an employee’s terms and conditions of employment that allow them opportunities to achieve work life balance.
In addition to the right to request flexible work arrangements, there are other rights and protections covered in the Code that can help employees achieve work life balance. These include existing and new leaves improved bereavement leave, and the substitution of a general holiday for another day.
Benefits of flexible work arrangements
Rights and protections in support of work life balance can benefit both employees and employers by:
- decreasing employee absences
- improving employee health
- improving satisfaction in the workplace
- improving employee selection and retention, especially among millennials, more experienced workers and workers with family responsibilities
- creating a workplace that is productive, innovative and effective when completing their daily tasks
Right to request flexible work arrangements
In general, as long as the employer and the employee agree, a flexible work arrangement can include almost any change that allows the employee greater flexibility to balance work and home life.
However, the right to request flexible work arrangements under the Code only applies to:
- employees after 6 months of continuous employment, and
- flexible work requests for changes to the employee’s:
- number of work hours
- work schedule
- employee’s location of work
Employees meeting the above criteria and who make written requests for flexible work arrangements are protected from reprisals (for example, termination, demotion) that are a result of their request. See “protection against reprisal” below for more information.
Making a flexible work arrangement request: employee and employer
When an employee exercises their right to request a flexible work arrangement under the Code, both the employee and employer must deal with the request in a certain way.
Reminder: the following applies to requests that meet the criteria mentioned in the “right to request flexible work arrangements” section above.
Must make the request to their employer in writing
A request may be denied by the employer for one or more of the following decisions:
- the requested change would result in additional costs that would be a burden on the employer
- the requested change would have a negative impact on the quality or quantity of work and/or the ability to meet customer demand or performance in the employee’s workplace
- the employer cannot reorganize work among existing employees or hire more employees to manage the requested change
- there would not be enough work available for the employee if the requested change was granted
Making a flexible work arrangement request
Flexible work arrangements help employees balance work and home life while helping employers improve employee attendance and productivity. This is why federally regulated employers are now required to consider employee’s requests for flexible work arrangements without consequence to the employee.
Flexible work arrangements cover
- the location of work—such as working from home or a satellite location
- the scheduling of work hours—such as modified work schedules or split work shifts
- the number of work hours—such as part time, job shares, reduced hours
- the types of compensation—such as allowances for working from home or for daycare fees during overtime
To make a request
Employees must have worked for the same employer for 6 continuous months to be protected when making a request.
In writing, the employee must include:
- Employee’s name
- Date of request
- Description of requested arrangements
- Requested start and end dates
- Expected effects on employer
What happens next
The employer has 30 days to respond and provide one of 4 possible responses in writing:
- approve as is
- approve in part
- propose an alternative
If the request is denied, justification should be included in the response to the employee.
If an employee believes they have been, for example, dismissed, demoted, suspended, or disciplined for making a request, they may file a complaint to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB).
To learn more about your rights and obligations please contact the Labour Program:
Toll-free number: 1-800-641-4049
Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-926-9105
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Protections against reprisals
An employer cannot reprimand an employee just because they made a written request, as outlined in the “right to request flexible work arrangements” section above. This protection from reprisal states that employers are prohibited from:
- dismissing, suspending, laying off, demoting or disciplining an employee
- taking the request for a flexible work arrangement into account in any decision to promote or train the employee, or
- threatening to take any of these actions
Filing a complaint
If an employee believes they have been reprimanded because they made a request for flexible work arrangements and that request meets the criteria outlined in the “right to request flexible work arrangements” section above, the employee can file a complaint.
The Canada Industrial Relations Board handles all complaints related protections from reprisals.
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