Questions and Answers - FWA
Why flexible work arrangements (FWAs)?
National surveys repeatedly show that staff members seek flexibility in the workplace as a key response to competing demands of work and home. A recent study found that the number one work factor correlating with staff member commitment and loyalty was recognition by the institution of the importance of personal and family life and support for these responsibilities.
There are also significant organizational benefits to be derived from these arrangements. FWAs can improve staff morale, increase productivity, improve health and wellness, reduce absenteeism and turnover, enhance student services and improve competitiveness for job candidates.
How long should a FWA be in place after the agreement is reached?
Typically there is a 3 month trial period before a regular agreement is implemented. The supervisor and staff member must include regular reviews of the arrangement to decide what is working and what needs to be improved or enhanced.
Is there any time when a supervisor can terminate or amend the arrangement?
The supervisor, with reasonable notice, can terminate or amend the agreement based on a number of reasons, such as operational changes, staffing changes, leadership changes, performance, etc.
What happens if a staff member who is working a flexible work arrangement wants to return to his or her previous schedule?
The staff member should discuss this with his or her supervisor at least 30 days prior to the date he or she wishes to resume the previous schedule. The supervisor may or may not be able to approve the request, depending on the needs of the business unit.
Can the denial of a request for a FWA be grieved?
No. The grievance procedure does not apply to decisions regarding flexible work arrangement requests.
Can a request for a FWA for the same position but in different departments be handled differently? Can one be approved and the other denied?
Yes. Since every job, staff member and situation are different; it cannot be assumed that the same decision is appropriate for two similar positions. Supervisors know the operations of their department/unit(s) best and are responsible for final decisions on how to get the work accomplished. But keep in mind that supervisors have the authority to say yes or no to a flexible arrangement, or to postpone consideration of FWAs to another time.
What happens if a staff member with a FWA transfers to another department?
FWAs are not transferrable.
Do all FWAs at GVSU have to be one of the options defined by GVSU? Can an arrangement be a combination or a modification of one of these options?
The options described in GVSU's guidelines are the most common types of FWAs. Supervisors and staff can modify or combine elements of these or other arrangements to accommodate individual situations or needs. Regardless of the type of FWA, the arrangement should be formalized in writing so the expectations and responsibilities are clearly defined for both the staff member and supervisor.
How often can a person change his/her FWA?
That will depend on a number of factors, including type of arrangement, the school department needs, the frequency of requests, the success of current arrangements, etc.
Do the guidelines for FWAs apply to bargaining units at GVSU?
Yes. See " Hourly Staff Guidelines".
Do the guidelines for FWAs apply to MGS staff?
FWA's for MGS staff are limited to collective bargaining agreement. Staff interested in FWA should discuss with their supervisor.
Who initiates a request or takes primary responsibility for completing a proposal for a FWA?
FWAs are typically initiated by a staff member, however, supervisors may also suggest FWAs. The staff member and the supervisor are encouraged to discuss their needs and to work together to develop the best possible arrangements for their situation.
Who needs to be notified if a FWA has been terminated?
What are the benefits of FWAs to my department ?
There is a strong business case for FWAs. The benefits include:
- Improved retention and staff commitment: staff may remain with an employer longer and have a higher level of commitment when an organization provides access to more FWAs.
- Improved productivity: flexible arrangements can provide uninterrupted time for creative, repetitive or highly detailed work; they can also help take advantage of different work styles (early energy vs. late energy); FWAs may also help to reduce tardiness and absences due to personal commitments.
- Improved service: a flexible approach to working time can potentially be used to extend service delivery, improve customer relations and deal with time zone differences.
- Cost savings: reduced staff turnover, training costs and possibly accommodation costs contribute to increased cost savings.
- Improved recruitment: more flexibility can attract potential staff members when vacancies arise, especially in a situation where applicants can make comparative evaluations of job offers; skilled and experienced people may be attracted back into the work force, and a match can be achieved between skills and current market shortages.
- As more of the Millennial generation enter the workforce there will likely be an increase in demands for FWAs.
If FWAs are available to all staff members, how will supervisors handle all of the requests and ensure adequate coverage?
Traditional schedules meet the needs of the majority of staff members. Staff members who do request FWAs most often ask for slight changes in their daily arrival and departure times, changes that pose the least challenge for an staff member's supervisor and co-workers.
If a supervisor receives multiple requests that all cannot be accommodated, how does he/she rate the needs of the requesters to decide which requests to approve?
Reasons for the requests should not be used as the only factor in making a decision. If the staff members' requests are similar in terms of their ability to continue to meet job requirements, seniority and performance may be factors in determining which request to approve. The supervisor may ask the staff members for input into a solution that would enable the staff members to meet their individual needs as well as the needs of the business unit.
How do you supervise staff members working at home?
If staff members work at home as an established FWA, then supervisors should set up a structured system for management. The emphasis will focus on the completion of tasks rather than based on time. Performance measures should be agreed and then monitored. Communication is very important for those working at home.
Once a FWA has been approved, how can it be introduced smoothly into the department to address perceptions of fairness or redistribution of work?
It's a good idea to make sure everyone is consulted when new working arrangements are introduced. It's part of good management practice to ensure staff members are treated fairly and that they are not overloaded with work as the result of a FWA by another staff member. Resentment may arise if no arrangements are made to deal with part of someone's job responsibilities if the person's hours are reduced. Remember, if hours are reduced so is the pay! Where there is a worry that colleagues may find the FWA unfair, supervisors, at the planning stage, should meet with the work group/department to define work parameters and develop a system to manage the work group/department's work schedule. For example, it would be useful to agree to procedures for the following:
- Methods of briefing staff - e.g. on new tasks, progress, continuing tasks
- Methods of dealing with forwarding - e.g. calls from the office, urgent correspondence, other correspondence
- Assessing performance - how and when this will be done
- Scheduling meetings - how and when will they be scheduled
- Discussing problems relating to the FWA - how and when these will be dealt with.
How should a supervisor handle a situation where it may be appropriate to approve one person's request for flexibility and deny the request of another?
All decisions should be focused on organizational needs and objective criteria related to work performance and job demands. A consistent approach to analyzing the situation should be applied. Then, it is important to communicate to each requester the decision and its rationale. Documenting the basis for these decisions is always a good idea in case questions arise later. Human Resources can help you develop objective criteria to use and a strategy for communicating your decision.
What happens if a supervisor receives too many requests in one area? How does the supervisor decide which FWA to approve?
Approval of FWAs should always make the best business sense. In other words, the supervisor will need to determine which FWA requests works best for the area and which do not. Decisions should be based on the best interest of students/department/university, not on seniority or the staff members' individual needs.
Can FWAs be used for a limited time to meet fluctuating work demands, such as the need for expanded hour coverage at the beginning of a semester or at the end of the fiscal year, or to allow for more flexibility when work demand is less, such as during the summer?
Yes. For example, if it would be useful for a department to have extended hours during the beginning of a semester or high volume period to accommodate special demands, flextime could be implemented. Some staff could have the opportunity to work an early schedule (such as 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), while others would work a late schedule (such as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.). At the end of the specified time frame, traditional hours may be resumed. Likewise some departments may choose to offer compressed work schedules during slower time periods, with longer mid-week hours and early departure on Fridays or late arrivals Monday. Later on, this revision may no longer be appropriate for the demands of the department and traditional work hours could be resumed. It is very important for the supervisor to establish clear expectations on the time frame limits of this arrangement before it begins.
Who has to review and/or approve a FWA?
A final FWA must be approved by the direct supervisor of the staff member and the Appointing Officer. Applications for FWA should be submitted to the Human Resources Representative.
How does vacation, sick leave or holidays get calculated under a flexible work arrangement?
Please refer to the Hourly Staff Guidelines.
If a part-time salaried staff member works a greater number of hours than specified in the approved flexible work arrangement request, is he or she eligible for extra pay?
As with all salaried staff members, part-time professionals are paid for the job they do rather than the number of hours required to complete the job. They are not eligible for additional pay for additional hours worked. However, if a part-time professional regularly works more than the weekly scheduled hours, the work schedule and/or job expectations may need to be re-evaluated.
If a paid holiday falls on a day on which a staff member is not normally scheduled to work, can the staff member take off one of his or her regularly scheduled days that week?
With supervisor approval, shifting of a holiday is permitted for staff members on a FWA. Be sure to discuss the schedule with your supervisor first.
How do flexible work arrangements affect overtime pay for hourly staff?
See " Hourly Staff Guidelines".
Does a FWA affect a staff member's benefits?
Staff members considering a reduced FWA schedule should discuss any potential impact on compensation and benefits with the Human Resources and Benefits offices.
Would I be eligible for additional pay if the majority of my hours fall within a shift where a premium is paid?
In cases where the staff member is requesting to work a flexible work schedule and the majority of hours fall within a shift other than that normally scheduled, the staff member is not eligible for shift premium.
Are supervisors eligible for FWAs?
Yes. Supervisors should follow the same guidelines for FWAs. However, it may be more challenging if there are staff members who need supervision during the hours the supervisor is unavailable.
Are hourly staff members eligible for FWA?
Yes. Hourly staff members are eligible for FWA. However, supervisors need to be mindful of wage and hour laws when evaluating non-exempt staff members' flexible work arrangement requests. Certain types of flexible work arrangements - such as a nine-day/80-hour compressed workweek - could result in overtime pay for a non-exempt staff member.
I have one vacant FTE (1.0) that I would like to use for a job sharing experience. Am I limited to a 50/50 split on the FTE or do I have other options?
The division of the FTE (1.0) should be based on what it would take to complete the work and the applicant available to share the job. For example, a 60/40 split may work for your operation and meet the needs of the applicants. Ensure that the applicants understand what benefits they are eligible for based on the regular hours worked.
What if one job-sharer leaves?
Be sure to outline expectations for how this will be handled in the written agreement prior to implementing a job-sharing arrangement. The staff member should discuss this with his or her supervisor, with reasonable notice, prior to the date he or she wishes to resume the previous schedule. The supervisor may or may not be able to approve the request, depending on the needs of the business unit.
Many supervisors offer the full-time post to the remaining sharer, but it may not be practicable for them to work full-time. Normally a job-share vacancy is advertised in the same way as any other. If filling the post is difficult the remaining sharer may have to become full-time. Or the sharer could continue part-time and the other half of the job is re-allocated.