While there is currently no statutory entitlement under Irish law for an employee on full time hours to be accommodated with part time work (or vice versa), flexitime, part time working, working from home and job sharing are some of the measures often introduced by employers to facilitate a more family friendly working environment for both men and women.
Some common benefits for employers offering flexible working arrangements can include increased productivity and efficiency, improved staff morale, reduction in stress and sick leave, reduction in absenteeism and increased job satisfaction for employees.
So what should employers do when implementing flexible working or part-time arrangements with an employee?
1. Employment contract
Employers should ensure there is a written employment contract in place which clearly sets out the employee’s hours and place of work. Where a full time employee’s hours of work change to part time, this change should be documented in writing, including provision for when the employee is expected to revert to full time hours (if at all). Change to working hours is likely to have an impact on the employee’s salary and holiday (and public holiday) entitlement and these too should be recorded in writing along with any other agreed changes to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment.
2. Code of Practice
A non-binding Code of Practice on Access to Part Time Work has been developed by the Labour Relations Commission (now the Workplace Relations Commission) and employers should have regard to this when considering requests for part time hours/ flexible working. This Code of Practice can be accessed on the Workplace Relations Commission website www.workplacerelations.ie or via the following link: https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Good_Workplace_Relations/codes_practice/COP7/
3. Implement a policy
Employers should review their HR policies regularly to ensure they are fit for purpose and where flexible working is offered to employees, there should be a clear policy included in the Employee Handbook setting out how applications for flexible working are to be treated. It is important that any such policy is applied consistently to all staff members.
4. Do not discriminate
Where employees are granted flexible working hours or part time working hours, it is important they are not treated any less favourably than comparable full time employees unless there are objective grounds justifying the difference in treatment. For example, if an employee who would ordinarily receive payment in respect of sick leave does not receive such payment purely due to the fact that they work part time hours, there is a risk that such different treatment may be discriminatory. Where a benefit is determined by the number of hours an employee works, it should be offered on a pro-rata or proportionate basis to part-time employees