This article was written by Amelia Berman, an associate at Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa, Sandton
Flexible working, or flexi-time, is the concept of adjusting the working hours of an employee so that he or she no longer has to render services during the employer’s core business hours but rather where he or she chooses his or her own working hours, time frames or place of work within which to complete his or her allotted work.
Flexi-time may take the form of varying an employee’s daily, weekly or monthly working hours or allowing an employee to work fewer days per week with longer working hours on the days worked. Job-sharing is another flexible working arrangement which involves allocating the workload of a full-time position to two part-time employees. Flexi-place is a further alternate work schedule whereby employees work from a location other than at their employer’s premises or the location where the employees are required to render their services.
Although flexi-time is not something that is specifically legislated upon in South Africa, section 27 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (the BCEA) does envisage the need for family responsibility leave and affords all employees who have been in employment with an employer for longer than four months and who work for at least four days a week three days’ paid leave per annual leave cycle for family responsibility leave. Family responsibility leave may be taken when the employee’s child is born, when the employee’s child is sick, or in the event of the death of the employee’s spouse or life partner, or the employee’s parent, adoptive parent, grandparent, child, adopted child, grandchild or sibling. Importantly, section 7(d) of the BCEA also stipulates that every employer must regulate the working time of each employee with due regard to family responsibilities.
In addition, section 6 of the Employment Equity Act, 1998 (the EEA) prohibits direct and indirect discrimination on basis of family responsibilities. Family responsibility is defined in the EEA as “responsibility of employees in relation to their spouse, partner, their dependent children or other members of their immediate family who need their care or support”. Although flexi-time is not a work arrangement reserved only for women, it is noteworthy that section 15 of the EEA also stipulates that designated employers must adopt affirmative action measures to ensure equitable representation of designated groups (which includes women) at the workplace as well as reasonable accommodation of such designated groups.
In addition to the aforementioned considerations which emerge from the South African legislation, and especially where the environment in which companies operate has changed considerably as a result of technology and the drive for greater economic efficiency, employers should consider adopting flexible working arrangements. Flex-time is a way for employees to vary their work schedules so as to make time for their family responsibilities, as well as other household obligations. By affording employees the option of working flexible hours, an employer aids its employees in achieving a work life balance, whilst still meeting the demands of the employer’s business. The benefit for employers in affording employees the option of working flexi-time is that it results in less absenteeism and fosters motivation and productivity.