HR Toolkit


HR Policies & Employment Legislation

Sample Policies on Common HR Topics

Alternative work arrangements (flexible time, compressed work week, job sharing etc)

An alternative work arrangement refers to any work arrangement that differs from the organization's standard work schedule and location. A well-structured policy helps to provide a clear understanding of the expectations and responsibilities of all parties involved in the alternative work arrangement, and ensure that the same criteria for making decisions on alternative work arrangements are applied to all employees. Furthermore, a policy enables employees considering alternative work arrangements to understand how their request will be evaluated and helps to avoid potential perceptions of inequity that may arise from ad hoc decisions.

When establishing policies and procedures on alternative work arrangements, organizations seek to provide employees with a means to achieve a balance between professional and personal responsibilities in a manner that benefits both the employee and the employer. The potential benefits to the employer are: increased employee motivation and productivity; increased employee commitment to the organization; ability to attract high performing individuals; and reduced absenteeism and staff turnover. The potential benefits to the employee are: reduction in stress due to conflicting personal and professional priorities; and increased job satisfaction, energy and creativity.

Employees may request alternative work arrangements for a number of different reasons such as: child care; elder care; medical needs; education goals; or personal growth and achievement aspirations. It is important and valid to distinguish between, for example, a request for medical reasons, where the employer may be required to provide accommodation, and a reason that is more geared towards an employee’s personal aspirations. However, in order to respect individual privacy, employees should not be required to provide the specific details of the reason for the alternative work arrangement request.

 

Alternative work arrangements

The key to successful alternative work arrangements is the flexibility to tailor the arrangement to the particular needs of the individual and the organization. There are many types of alternative work arrangements. In considering which alternative work arrangements to offer employees, organizations should consider the arrangement's practicality, fairness, and flexibility within the environment of the organization.

Typical alternative work arrangements include:

Flexible time

  • Flexible time is an arrangement where employees work the standard number of hours in a workday or week, but vary the time of their work hours. Most organizations establish core working hours, meaning there are certain hours during the day in which it is mandatory for the employee to be at the workplace. For example an employee on flex time may start her day between 7 and 9 a.m. and finish between 3 and 5 p.m., but is required to be at work during core working hours which are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Compressed work week

  • A compressed work week is an arrangement where an employee works the standard number of hours in a one or two week period, but compresses those hours into fewer work days (thus working longer hours on the days the employee is at work). For example in a 40 hour work week an employee on a compressed work week may work four 10-hour days in a week with one day off, or nine 9-hour days with one day off every two weeks.

Telecommuting

  • Telecommuting is an arrangement where an employee works either part or all of their workweek from a location other than the standard place of work (office). Typically employees in such an arrangement work from their homes. For example, an employee may work three days a week at the office and two days a week from home.

Job sharing

  • Job sharing is an arrangement where two employees share one position. There are many combinations of work hours that are used for job sharing. For example one employee might work Monday to Wednesday and the other employee Thursday and Friday, or one employee might work mornings and the other afternoons.

Part-time/reduced hours

  • Part-time or reduced hours are arrangements where an employee works less than the standard work week hours.

Alternative work arrangements and legislative requirements

There are no legislative requirements on employers to offer, or agree to, an alternative work arrangement except where accommodation is being sought for medical reasons. However, when developing an alternative work arrangement policy, organizations need to ensure the policy does not contravene the employment standards of their province - in particular organizations need to ensure that alternative work arrangements are still consistent with legislation regarding: hours of work; rest days/rest periods; overtime; short work weeks and averaging agreements. Additionally, employers may consider instituting alternative work arrangements in order to meet their Obligations to Accommodate, as required by the Human Rights Code in their jurisdiction.

While typically it is the employee who initiates an alternative work arrangement, there may be situations in which the employer initiates alternative work arrangements to meet operational or work-balancing/workload requirements. Should an alternative work arrangement be employer initiated, after the original employment contract is established (and therefore changing the agreed to terms of employment), the employee must be given the opportunity to consider and if desired refuse the arrangement. Arbitrarily instituting an alternative work arrangement could be considered constructive dismissal. Therefore the employer must offer the employee the choice of accepting the new work arrangement or provide notice/severance pay. It is prudent for the employer to seek legal advice when encountering this situation.

Establishing and implementing alternative work arrangements

Organizations are advised to establish a formal alternative work arrangement agreement to be completed and signed by both the employer and the employee prior to beginning the alternative work arrangement. The agreement should outline the specific details of the alternative work arrangement, who is responsible for covering any costs incurred as a result of the alternative work arrangement, any specific insurance requirements, performance expectations, and so forth. With the exception of part-time, reduced hours or job sharing (where salary and benefits may be pro-rated), alternative work arrangements typically do not impact an employee's salary, benefits, and career progression.

Often there is a feeling that individuals who choose to job share or work reduced hours end up working a full-time position for a part-time salary; or those who work a compressed work week are required to be available/on-call on their day off, or there is an expectation to come in to work for a meeting on a work-at-home day. These issues can largely be resolved through good communication of the policy to both management and employees. Additionally, managers should take the responsibility to ensure that all parties respect the work arrangement.

The policy examples below demonstrate different approaches organizations have taken to implementing alternative work arrangements.

In this section you'll find introductions to the HR policy topics listed below. These introductions will give you things to think about when developing a policy on each topic. You will also find samples for each topic that have been shared by nonprofits across Canada.


 

Sample policies

Compressed Work Week - National Arts Organization (PDF - 31KB)

  • Gives clear instruction on how to implement a compressed work week

Alternative Work Hours - Community Foundation of Ottawa (PDF - 39KB)

  • Provides staff with the option of flexible hours or part-time hours
  • Identifies the criteria for approving alternative work hours