Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Michael Henry, is encouraging more organisations to adopt and use flexible work arrangements, in light of the coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic.
In his speech,delivered by Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dionne Jennings, at a virtual productivity forum on August 20, Mr. Henry said this will lead to a safe, healthy and productive execution of jobs, especially at this time.
Citing some of the benefits of adopting flexible work arrangements, Mr. Henry said these include increased employment opportunities, increased productivity and reduced labour cost.
He noted that it may also help to improve health and well-being, reduce absenteeism and enhance employee engagement, morale and motivation.
“Although there are several careful considerations that should be made prior to implementation of the flexi-work arrangements, organisations and their employees are positioned to reap significant benefits,” the Minister argued.
He pointed out that the implementation of flexible work arrangements will facilitate and enable employers and employees to negotiate and select the hours, days and time that are best suited to the organisational goals.
“Due to the uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations continue to show their agility through the adoption of the implementation of flexi work arrangements,” the Minister noted.
“Through the efforts of the Ministry and, by extension, the Jamaica Productivity Centre, we are committed to providing the necessary support in ensuring that employees and employers are adequately equipped in understanding the positive impact of flexi-work arrangements,” he added.
The Minister said that the International Labour Organization (ILO) defines flexible work as an arrangement offering various possibilities in relation to the number of hours worked and the arrangement of rosters, shifts or work schedule on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis.
Additionally, he explained that flexible work arrangements are a fundamental part of the Jamaica Labour Market reform process started in 1994, noting that it was developed to recommend strategies that would assist the country to be more competitive in the international market.
He also pointed out that the Employment Flexi Work Arrangement Miscellaneous Provision Act of 2014 paved the way for the formal implementation of flexi-work arrangements.
“Being in an era where technology is advanced, there are several options to be considered when implementing flexible work arrangements. In fact, the International Workplace Group shows that 80 per cent of workers in the United States would choose a job that offers flexible working conditions,” Mr. Henry disclosed.
In the meantime, he said the Ministry is developing a telecommuting policy, which is currently in its draft stage, that will formalise the arrangements that will provide the worker with the opportunity to work from a site other than the central work site.
“In some instances, the worker could perform some or all of the work from his or her home,” he added.
Mr. Henry noted too that the Jamaica Productivity Centre is currently executing a COVID-19 Productivity Impact Survey, which targets businesses and organisations operating in Jamaica.
The preliminary results indicate that there is a 40 per cent reduction of hours worked in the office; 20 per cent of employees are completely working from home; seven per cent of companies implemented a flexible worksite; and 33 per cent introduced staggered shifts.
“These results indicate the responsiveness of organisations to this pandemic, and this will assist in taming the economic fallout within our country,” he said.
Other participants in the forum included Chief Technical Director of the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC), Tamar Nelson; President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Helen Davis White; Divisional Director of Industrial Relations and Allied Services, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Gillian Corrodus; Director of Information Security Advisory, Symptal, Rory Ebanks; and Human Resource Manager, Sagicor Bank Jamaica Limited, Kaydian Morris. Areas of focus included technology infrastructure and security, staff commitment and accountability, measurement and verification, innovation, legislative framework and labour laws, and challenges and workarounds.
The forum was hosted by the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC), which is an agency under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.