The Flexible Work Arrangement Policy for the Barbados Public Service has been approved by Cabinet and it is already in effect.
Director General of Human Resources, Ministry of the Public Service, Gail Atkins, said the new arrangements were expected to result in a better work-life balance for public officers and temporary employees, as well as benefits for ministries and departments across the public service.
Ms. Atkins continued: “The implementation of this Flexible Work Arrangement Policy serves to modernise the public service by bringing it into the 21st Century. It is also expected to provide work-life balance for officers and improve productivity within the public sector.
“Based on a recent study, which was conducted for the Ministry of the Public Service, we expect that this flexible arrangement will also contribute to a reduction in absenteeism, as employees will be able to balance their personal and work commitments.”
The four types of flexible working arrangements are: compressed week; flexi-time; staggered hours and telecommuting. Some aspects of these arrangements are already practised in some departments/ministries across the public service.
The Director General said public officers were expressing an interest in the available options. She explained that those officers could apply to the Permanent Secretary or the Head of Department for the flexible arrangements.
However, she stressed that working from home was not a foregone conclusion for an employee who applied, as the flexible arrangement must accommodate his or her needs and that of the organisation.
“The flexible arrangement must take into account the work of the ministry or department. There are some public officers whose functions cannot be performed at home, as was evident when the island was shut down during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and again this year, during the period of national pause,” she pointed out.
Ms. Atkins said the flexible work arrangement would be in place for an initial period, where it would then be assessed to see how it was working for the employee and employer.
In a compressed week, an employee works his or her usual number of full-time hours in fewer days by working longer blocks of time per day. For example, four days of work in one week with three days off; ten days’ work, normally completed in a fortnight, into nine days, or some other suitable arrangement that includes health, safety and welfare considerations.
A flexi-time arrangement allows management and an employee to agree, within certain limits, for example, when to begin and end the work day and where the work period can vary from day-to-day. The basic requirement is the employee must work the mandatory number of hours that comprise the standard work week and must be present during some segment of the core time, which is between 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
With staggered hours, the start and end time of work hours for employees may vary while they complete a period equal to a standard work day (for example, 7:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.; 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.; 9:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.), as agreed by the Head of the Department.
Telecommuting entails an employee performing specific work-related duties from home or another remote location for a specified period. The officer would be required to work from office at least one day per week, unless there are extraordinary circumstances which would prevent this from occurring. The extraordinary circumstances would be if an issue significantly disrupts operations, for example, fire, water or electricity outage; if an issue occurs outside the workplace, such as a hurricane or other natural disaster; or if a state of emergency is imposed by Government, which limits movement.
Ms. Atkins underscored the importance of this Flexible Work Arrangement Policy and said a sensitisation campaign would be rolled out shortly for public officers.