Read: Flexibility for who?

‘To truly benefit from flexible work, employees must define choice and flexibility, not employers’, argues Gareth Murphy.

The last number of decades of workplace change have been defined too much by employer control over work and an employer-led flexibility in work. Changes to contractual relationships with the gig-economy, platform work and zero-hour contracts are to the benefit, primarily, of employers in transferring risks and costs to the employee and creating an ‘if and when’ pool of resources for companies.

Technology has also facilitated widespread outsourcing and off-shoring of work. It is time this changed and we developed a more proactive agenda on technology and work and begin to shape the transformation which is underway.

‘Right to Disconnect’

In 2019, FSU launched the ‘Right to Disconnect‘ campaign calling for legislation to protect staff’s right to disconnect from work and to stop the informal, and unpaid, extension of the working week. Disconnecting from work is vital to our mental-health and to a sustainable work-life balance.

Employers should not expect staff to work more than their contractual working hours. Overtime policies, and on-call or stand-by allowances, should be in place for employees when required. We are calling on Government to legislate for this.

But it is time that flexibility more generally at work should be led by and for employees. Remote working, whether from home or hubs, should be made available to employees. And employees should be able to fit their working time into a pattern that works for them and their families/interests. It is time that employees defined choice and flexibility not employers.

Finnish Law

On New Years’ day I ran a short twitter poll on an interesting development in Finnish law. From January 1 2020, in Finland, employees can determine their working location and pattern of time for up to half of their hours. The act also provides for legally entitled overtime payments and also for the banking of hours worked.

This brief poll showed how popular initiatives like this are and as technology develops there is the potential to help tackle commuting time and congestion around cities. Recent FSU research shows workers are commuting long periods of time and spending significant amounts of their wages on accommodation. Employee-led flexibility could help address this.

Just before Christmas the Government released a report on Remote Working which highlighted the need for a right to disconnect to protect staff but also called for creative ways to facilitate flexible working. FSU is committed to campaigning for employee-led flexibility and will continue to put forward new and innovative proposals to make work better for staff.

Gareth Murphy is head of campaigns and industrial relations at the Financial Services Union.

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