26 September 2023

IRELAND: Department fears flexitime plan

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Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has said a proposal for a pilot program of flexitime for Public Servants could have “serious implications for delivery of public services”.

The Department is in dispute with the Civil Service Staff Panel on the matter, which is currently being considered by the Civil Service Arbitration Board.

The disagreement centres on the structure for pilot programs for flexitime accrual as part of the new blended working framework.

Flexitime has been introduced as a means to allow office-based staff to stagger their start or finish times to suit their travel or home arrangements.

The Department put forward proposals to test out four different approaches for how flexitime could work when some workers were doing a mixture.

However, the Staff Panel said that while it was willing to consider a pilot, it could not agree to an “inconsistent” approach across the bureaucracy.

“If one organisation could introduce full flexitime and flexi accrual for all its staff, then there is no cogent operational reason why others couldn’t,” the Staff Panel said.

It said it had been proven that staff could be trusted to work remotely and productively during the pandemic.

“Access to flexi accrual for blended workers will not change this, nor is there evidence to support such a thesis,” the Staff Panel said.

“We are of the view that that the accrual of flexi leave would not result in operational problems or dilute necessary office attendance.”

However, the Department maintained there was an absence of “real-world experience” for how flexitime accrual might impact operations when there was a mixture of staff working at home and in the office.

It said there were concerns that the introduction of flexitime accrual for blended workers “may create significant difficulty in rostering/scheduling staff cover in areas where a certain level of physical attendance on site is required”.

“Blended working alongside flexi accrual is a whole new way of working, and management need to be absolutely assured that, if it is to be deployed, it works for all stakeholders and not just employees,” the Department said.

Dublin, 28 April 2022

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