Right to Demand Flexible Hours


Should workers be able to "demand" flexible work?

I am in the United States. Most of you know that already. But I do pay attention to what is going on around the world, as should all good HR people. In my news reader this morning was an article that talked about New Zealand labor and employment law. What caught my eye was a statement that a new package of legislation suggested by the Labour (Labor here in the US) Minister included the right for workers to demand flexible hours. Naturally my reaction was “What?” But I wanted to get your reaction on this.
The Labour Minister was quoted as saying:

“We are extending the right to request flexible working arrangements to all workers, right from their first day on the job. Under the current law this is only available to caregivers, and only then after six months of employment.
 “Modern lifestyles are changing, and workplaces need to reflect this reality. Flexible working arrangements will boost productivity and help employees find the work-life balance that works for them and their family.
 “Flexible hours are often agreed to informally, and by extending eligibility to all employees, we hope to encourage agreement without having to go through a formal process.”

Now I am not asking you to weigh in on suggested New Zealand law. That is their issue. What I want to know is how do you feel about workers having the right to request or demand flexible hours? To me this is a company issue, not a worker issue. If companies have the kind of work that can be done on a flexible basis and they want to offer flexible arrangements to workers for reasons of “balance”, or recruitment, or retention, or whatever then it is the company’s prerogative to do so. But to have a government mandate that allows employees to demand flexible arrangements from day one? No thank you. If my company does not have flexible work or does not want to offer it then the applicant has the option not to work there. If that is important to you as an employee to have flexible work opportunities then find an employer that offers them.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for flexible work, of any sort, as long as it fits with the work and the culture. I think it is a wonderful tool. What I object to is a government telling me I HAVE to offer it or that an employee has the right to request it. Just my opinion, what is yours?
If you want to read the article that set this rant off you can find it here.

2 thoughts on “Right to Demand Flexible Hours”

  1. Mike,
    Interesting post. In the U.S. most organizations have at least thought of the concept of flexible hours in some fashion. Having worked in manufacturing for many years even with production shifts we were able to be creative with our folks in union and non-union shops. If companies focus on the objective they need to accomplish, such as production goals, project deadlines, etc. then should it matter the hours one works to meet the objective? (Certainly you have to consider FLSA in this decision but even with that there is flexibility). To often “boomers”and “traditionalists” in senior leadership positions have the perception that you have to be there [at the office] in order to work. With all the advances in technology and the ability companies have to explore options to meet their customers needs, we need to be talking to the people who make the company successful and working with them instead of putting artifical barriers in front of them. This is on way you can become an employer of choice in an area. Would love to hear other thoughts on this.

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