Individual flex-time agreements coming to Manitoba

Ability to change standard workweek aimed at work-life balance

Employees and employers will have more flexibility to adjust daily hours of work to accommodate personal obligations under one of four changes to the Employment Standards Code, according to Labour and Immigration Minister Jennifer Howard.

"These changes respond to requests from businesses and employees and they are designed to meet the needs of today's workplace," she said. "The current economic climate requires flexibility and creativity and the code changes provide options for more flexible hours to balance work needs with home and family needs."

The changes, which take effect Jan. 1, focus on four areas of the employment standards:
•individual flex-time agreements
•applications for averaging permits from all industries
•general holidays in climate-controlled agricultural operations
•changes to termination rules.

"These changes will help Manitoba's food services sector to better plan and schedule work times to meet customer needs while at the same time giving our workforce opportunities to spend more time with their families," said Scott Jocelyn, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservices Association. "The province has made changes that should be helpful for both our food service operators and their employees."

Both employers and employees have expressed an interest in being able to have a more flexible work day in order to balance work needs with home and family needs, said Howard. Employees who work more than 35 hours per week with the same employer will now be able to voluntarily enter into an individual flex-time agreement with their employer's approval.

The written agreement provides a rearrangement of daily hours but no more than 40 hours per week. While these agreements can be made without permission from the province, should there be problems, Manitoba Employment Standards can terminate current agreements and not allow the employer to enter into any future agreements.

Also starting in January, employers in industries such as retail and hospitality will now be eligible for averaging permits, said Howard. An averaging permit allows a change to the standard eight hours per day and 40 hours per week to allow longer daily shifts, however, must average 40 hours per week.

When an employer is issued an averaging permit, they are able to schedule shifts to better suit their business needs while providing a benefit to their employees, said the government. Prior to issuing a permit, an employer must show that at least 75 per cent of the affected employees have agreed to the schedule change. The province has introduced a Simplified Averaging Permit application where the processing times are faster for most applications, said Howard.

Employers in climate-controlled agricultural businesses can choose to pay regular wages for hours worked on a general holiday and give the employee another day off with general holiday pay. This was previously available only to employers operating a gas station, hospital, hotel, restaurant, place of amusement, continuously operating plant, a seasonal industry or domestic workers, she said.

The final change brings Manitoba's Employment Standards Code language around terminations in line with practices in other provinces, said Howard.

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