Business owners everywhere have been bombarded with claims that they need to offer ever-more-flexible work arrangements to their workforce if they want to succeed, but this can lead to tricky legal questions that not every entrepreneur is prepared to answer. Flexible working hours generally lead to happier, more productive employees, but they can also be a legal nuisance that could cost your company dearly if you end up getting hit by a lawsuit.
Can flexible working really lead to working-time claims? As a matter of fact, yes. Here’s how you can offer a flexible work schedule while simultaneously taking important working-time claims into consideration.
What’s a flexible working arrangement, anyway?
Before you can hope to avoid working-time claims which could harm your company’s brand, you need to understand what a flexible working arrangement is in the first place. Over the past few years, an unprecedented number of companies have been pivoting to a new employment model that allows everyday workers to create flexible schedules for themselves outside of the traditional 9-5 workday. What’s more, remote working has enjoyed an explosion in popularity, and this can also be seen as a development in the flexible-work economy that’s growing bigger by the day.
Generally, there are three elements that make a work schedule into a flexible work arrangement. Helpful research from Georgetown elucidates that you have a flexible work schedule if you: 1. Enjoy flexibility in scheduling when your working hours occur 2. Enjoy flexibility in the number of hours you work per week and 3. Enjoy flexibility in the place of your work, meaning you could work from the office, home, or anywhere else you please.
While flexible arrangements such as this can produce bountiful results when it comes to bolstering workplace productivity, they can also come with a number of downsides. Namely, your company must pay particular attention to how often your workers are laboring on your behalf. While an employee may desire to work more than 48 hours in a single week, for instance, this could force your company to run afoul of employment laws that limit the number of hours a worker is permitted. Similarly, working-time claims could easily spring up from employees who argue that, despite the fact that they were in the comforts of their own home, they were working for you and deserve fair pay.
It can be exceptionally difficult to parse out working-time claims in the gig economy. After all, business owners are never quite certain if their worker is telling the truth about working from the couch or merely padding their hours in order to get a bigger paycheck. As you attempt to avoid working-time claims, transparency and careful recording are essential elements towards avoiding lawsuits.
Know your obligations, and follow them.
The best thing you can do is study your national and local employer obligations and follow them stringently. If employees are only permitted to work X hours per week, under no circumstances can you permit them to work more, even if they claim they can handle it from home. Doing so may help their paycheck, but it could land you in legal hot water. Employees legal obligations to consider are worthy of review if you’re unfamiliar with this area.
Ensure that workers are carefully monitoring how long they work for and provide tech to expedite the process if the need arises. Digital time-monitoring systems can be expensive but will pay for themselves by giving you accurate information to work with and preventing lawsuits. Finally, ensure that regular breaks and rest periods are offered, and just as importantly, record each of them. Flexible working arrangements can lead to working-time claims, but wise business leaders can take a number of steps to avoid things spiraling out of their control.