February 28, 2019

Flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting, compressed workweeks, and modified hours are a valuable recruitment and retention tool for workers who appreciate having some autonomy over when and where they work, and can also serve as an accommodative measure for some disabilities or family care obligations. However, many workers still hesitate to request them due to workplace cultures that value physical presence in the office, and many unions and employers worry about how to fairly administer such policies and appropriately supervise employees to ensure that they remain productive.

In this session, experts will address both the legal and practical considerations that arise when workplaces adopt flexible work arrangements, covering issues such as:

  • Adopting appropriate policies: What policies and procedures should employers put in place to appropriately respond to requests for flexible work arrangements? Can employees be required to provide a reason or justification for their request? Should there be an appeal mechanism when a request is denied? What role, if any, should the union play in this process? Could revoking the flexible work arrangement constitute a constructive dismissal?
  • Meeting the duty to accommodate: How does the approach change when the employee is requesting an alternative work arrangement as a human rights accommodation? What safeguards should workplace parties put in place to ensure that requests for accommodation (and the corresponding duty to disclose/provide information) are not improperly addressed?
  • Supervising employees/monitoring productivity: What measures can employers put in place to supervise employees who work remotely or during off-hours? Can an employer monitor keystrokes? Use surveillance measures such as cameras or screenshots? Require periodic check-ins with managers? Use productivity or time tracking software?
  • Ensuring fairness: What measures can workplace parties take to ensure fair and equitable flex-time agreements among employees? How should workplace parties manage competing requests, or requests that conflict with provisions in a collective agreement such as scheduling by order of seniority? How should unions respond to requests that may interfere with the rights of another member?