It has become clear that flexibility is currency in the new working world and legal frameworks are evolving to catch up with the changing working culture. Four-day work-weeks, flexible working arrangements and the right to disconnect are all on offer to employees, giving the opportunity for better work-life balance, and giving employers a competitive edge in talent retention.
While these concepts cannot be blindly adopted across borders or industries, given the vast differences that exist in attitudes to working hours, demands of specific industries and the global nature of teams, we are seeing increasing numbers of multi-national organizations implementing flexible working programs. Meanwhile, lawmakers across the globe are continuing to introduce new flexible working measures, offering greater protections to workers and resulting in a patchwork of nuanced guidance and regulation. Here’s our take on how this is playing out across the globe:
Right to disconnect
France was the pioneer in this area introducing a “right to disconnect” law in 2016, followed by Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg in EMEA. More jurisdictions followed suit in the thick of the pandemic as the trend became more of a necessity. Since 2021, there has been a pending resolution in the European Union calling for an EU directive on the right to disconnect. In the LATAM region, the right to disconnect became a reality including in Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Peru. In the North America region, Canada has likewise mandated employers with more than 25 employees to create a “Disconnecting from Work Policy.” More recently, in the APAC region, Taiwan and Thailand issued new guidelines, supporting employees’ right to disconnect with corresponding sanctions for violation.
Four-day work week
Last year, we heard a lot about the four-day working week, primarily in Europe – see our alerts for Belgium and Austria. Since then, following its move to a 4.5-day working week in 2022, the UAE has now implemented a four-day work-week for federal government employees effective from 1 July 2023. In the LATAM region, Chile recently reduced the mandatory working hours from 45 to 40 hours per week while allowing companies to distribute these hours across a minimum of four days (previously five days).
Flexible work arrangements
The right to request flexible work arrangements has likewise gained traction in the past year, which resulted in the creation of laws on remote work or teleworking. In APAC, Australia recently allowed certain categories of employees the right to request for flexible work arrangements. In the Philippines, the government encourages employers to adopt flexible work arrangements for pregnant employees and those exposed to extreme heat and strenuous activities. Meanwhile, the UK’s employment bill, which includes the right to request flexible work, has received Royal Assent.
A full copy of the alert can be viewed here.