Questionable flexi-work results
Even though the passage of the Employment Flexible Work Arrangements Act last year was heralded as a means to increase productivity and employment opportunities, those benefits are yet to be clearly seen.
According to the CEO of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Dennis Chung, the introduction of the bill has not had a significant impact on working arrangements.
"I don't see it having any significant impact, in terms of change, because a lot of people have been doing it for a while," he told The Gleaner.
Chung explained that many employers were already facilitating flexi-work arrangements before the passage of the bill.
"We have not really had any formal feedback on it but what we know, from informal discussions that we have had, is that a lot of people have been having flexi-work. It is something that, I think, has been in place for a long time in many organisations," he said.
LEGITIMACY TO PRE-EXISTING ARRANGEMENTS
The bill, he argued, only sought to provide legitimacy to these pre-existing arrangements.
President of the Jamaica Employer's Federation (JEF), David Wan, said it was too early to assess the impact of the bill.
"There is a misconception that employees could just get up do flexi-work, but this is not so, it has to be mutually agreed, so it is going to be some time before we can tell what the level of activity in this area is. We have not had any meaningful reports of big numbers of people wanting flexi-work arrangements yet, but I think more time has to elapse before we get the true impact of flexi-work on existing employees," he said.
Wan also noted that there would be a lag time regarding the impact of flexi-work for new employees.
"The whole concept behind new jobs, what this does is allow people who are thinking of a twenty-four-seven operation to be able to hire people to work evenings and weekends only, for argument's sake, without having to pay overtime before you get to 40 hours. So the new investments that may take place because of the advent of the flexi-work arrangements, I think you are also going to see a lag time for them to get the new facilities going. It's only been, by my recollection, about six months. A good check point is one year but right now it is too early to tell."
When asked about the fear employees may have in requesting flexi-work arrangements, the JEF president was quick to vouch for his fellow employers.
"For the vast majority of the employers that I deal with in the organisation, that would not be a reason for victimisation. I cannot say, for sure, it does not exist. As a matter of fact, I would say it does exist in some places but the vast majority of the employers we deal with, I don't think that's an issue. Our members are law-abiding, pay their taxes and they try to conform to international labour standards for their employees," he argued.
Head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Institute, Danny Roberts, called for a study to be done to determine any change in the labour market.
"We would probably have to do a study to see what has happened since the legislation came into effect, and if there is any noticeable change, in terms of improvements in productivity and efficiency," he said.
Roberts also noted that he did not expect that there would have been a plethora of requests for flexi-work arrangements after the introduction of the legislation, given that many companies would have adjusted their time arrangements in order to remain competitive with regard to the global environment.