Northern Ireland’s employers are adopting new hybrid working models
COVID-19 restrictions introduced in 2020, including work from home orders, created a new appetite for hybrid working models amongst Northern Ireland’s employers and employees. Some recruitment experts are reporting that top candidates are turning down offers that don’t include flexible working. As a result, the Labour Relations Agency has introduced a guide for employers to better transition into hybrid working for employees. This practical guide offers support to those considering introducing hybrid working in their organisations. It sets out the key considerations and offers a sample policy whilst highlighting challenges and how to overcome them.
Who are the Labour Relations Agency?
The Labour Relations Agency was established in 1976 and is responsible for promoting the improvement of employment relations in Northern Ireland. It is an independent body and publicly funded.
Key takeaways from the guide
In the guide, the Labour Relations Agency provides the following key takeaways:
- Employers should consider carefully whether hybrid working could be effective for particular roles and workplaces and recognise where it is not appropriate. Effective planning for its introduction is essential.
- Employers should consider introducing hybrid working on a trial basis if they are unsure if or how it will work in practice within their organisation and ensure that a review is carried out prior to the end of the trial period.
- Recognised trade unions/employee representatives and employees should be consulted prior to the introduction of a hybrid working policy.
- Employers should look at whether contractual changes are needed. This will depend on the model to be introduced. The employer must seek the consent of the employee directly, or via collective agreement, to any such changes.
- Employers should prepare a policy document, which clearly sets out how hybrid working will operate in your organisation – a model policy is contained within this guidance.
- Employers should review all associated policies to ensure consistency across all policies.
- Employers should ensure that hybrid working arrangements are kept under review.
John McShane, head of employment law at McCartan Turkington Breen, said the guide is, “another indication, if one was needed, of the transition to what the workplace looks like now and how inconceivable it would have been pre-March 2020.”
Download A Practical Guide to Hybrid Working
Additional Labour Relations Agency Resources
The Labour Relations Agency has a wealth of free resources available to employers and employees. If you would like to access them, visit Labour Relations Agency Resources.
Employees have the right to request hybrid working
If you’re an employee, you have the right to ask for flexible working in Northern Ireland. This right existed long before the pandemic. You can make a flexible working request if you’re an employee who has been with the company for more than 26 weeks and haven’t made a request in the last 12 months. You can ask for things such as remote working, flexible start/finish times, reduced hours and entering a job share with a colleague. You can learn more in our blog post entitled: You have the right to ask for flexible working.
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