Gov't needs to promote flexi-work Act, says attorney

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Gov't needs to promote flexi-work Act, says attorney

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 16, 2020

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ATTORNEY Anthony Williams has asserted that lack of public education around the 'flexi-work' Act is the reason it has not taken root in Jamaica.

According to Williams, for employers and employees to truly buy into the stipulations under the Act, formally known as the Employment (Flexible Work Arrangements) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (2014), there has to be a greater marketing push.

“The Government needs to promote it, they need to have a marketing plan to inform Jamaicans of how the thing works,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “The Government of Jamaica has to spend time and craft appropriate messages, announcements and advertisements about the importance of flexi week.”

Arguing that the Act was crafted to accomplish a number of things, which may not be clear to many, Williams said, “This Act seeks to change a number of things. One, the inflexible rule which designated Sunday as a holy or rest day. It seeks to change the question of what constitutes overtime. Under the current legislation it was eight hours as the normal working time, but this inflexible work arrangement now changes that position to 40 hours. So it seeks to make provisions as to changes in the number of hours worked per day. It changes the number of days per week and the start time and end time of work. What it seeks to do is to make the arrangements between employers and employees more flexible.”

According to Williams, there are a number of advantages in relation to having the flexi-week. These include the ability to arrange for more flexible work hours, an opportunity for both employees and employers to determine whether they will be employed for full- or part-time work, more opportunities for those who want to wager a bet, and the removal of half-day closing times for stores.

“Under the Betting, Gaming, and Lotteries Commission Act, Sundays are prohibited from work, so the betting shops cannot open. Under this new arrangement, betting shops can open,” he said.

“Now, you will notice in former times that downtown Kingston, for example, every Wednesday at 12 o'clock the shops are closed, and uptown every Thursday at 12 o'clock the shops are closed. So, this flexi arrangement extends the time, and under the Act business owners have more time to do business, so there is no longer this Wednesday and Thursday closing half day,” Williams explained.

Further, he said another important issue that the Act seeks to address is the matter of weekend work.

“Once an employee goes to work on a Saturday and a Sunday, under normal circumstances it's considered overtime. Once it's considered overtime, then it is an expensive rate for the employer because they would have to pay above the regular working rate. But under the flexi arrangement an employer and employee can agree that Saturday can no longer be considered overtime. So the Saturday and the Sunday can be considered as normal working days. So they can arrange that, instead of the employee working say a Monday or a Tuesday or a day in the week, the Saturday and the Sunday can be one of those days in the week and so it reduces their overhead expenses,” he explained, while also pointing out that for most people this is problematic.

“No employee wants to give up their weekend and consider it as a normal workday. The average Jamaican would not want their weekends their Saturdays or their Sundays, worse if they are Sabbath worshippers or Seventh-Day Adventists to give it up.”

Another issue that Williams pointed out is the matter of whether certain structures and benefits will still remain and how they affect international partners doing business with Jamaica.

“The issue is how can the Government of Jamaica remain competitive internationally as it relates to productivity in terms of hours, in terms of start time, in terms of closing time, in terms of overtime, in terms of vacation leave with pay, and whether or not those Sundays and public holidays should be counted,” he said.

Williams thinks “the flexi-week can work, and work marvellously”.

“It can work in the best interest because employers and employees just need to sit down and arrange carefully, meticulously and sensibly how they need to get the job done. It can work because an employer can stay at their location and their employee can stay at their location, perhaps at home, and there is communication. You're actually reducing your cost in some way. It can work by employees being told of the importance and significance of flexi-week,” he insisted.


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