Flexible working for cross-border businesses

Nov 22, 2018

Offering flexible working could help your business attract and retain employees. However, it’s important to comply with employment regulations, suggests Michael Farrell.

In July last year, the Taylor review of modern working practices noted, “As a society, we should be bolder in designing flexible jobs that allow people to remain and progress in the labour market as their personal circumstances change.”

In our work with businesses across the island of Ireland, we are seeing more employers offering flexible working options. In some instances, this is due to changing business patterns and needs, in others it is a response to employee requests. Flexible working includes but is definitely not limited to:

  • Part-time work;
  • Flexi-time (employees work standard hours but have different start and finish times within certain agreed limits);
  • Compressed hours (employees work a standard week in fewer days — e.g. a 35-hour week compressed into four working days instead of five);
  • Job sharing;
  • Career break;
  • Shorter working year;
  • Annualised hours;
  • Working from home;
  • Time off in lieu where employees work longer hours during busy periods and take an equivalent amount of time off (with pay) at a less busy time; and
  • Annualised hours: employees average out working time across the year so they work a set number of hours per year rather than per week.

Depending on the business, these flexible arrangements can benefit both employers and employees. However, it is important to be aware that there are differences in employment legislation and regulations between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK. These affect matters such as employment status categories, payroll, minimum wage, annual leave entitlement, sick pay, pensions, minimum notice periods, and redundancy. It is particularly important for businesses with cross-border employees to be aware of the different rules that apply in each jurisdiction. It can be difficult for some businesses to keep abreast of regulatory requirements in HR, particularly SME, owner-managed and micro-businesses working in multiple jurisdictions. Depending on individual circumstances, outsourcing may be a good solution where businesses do not have adequate HR resources in-house. As well as providing peace of mind, outsourcing can also be cost-effective.

With skills shortages affecting many businesses across the island of Ireland at present, it is likely that more employers will offer flexible working as a way of encouraging people into the workforce who might otherwise not be able to participate in the labour market. For information on flexible working and/or the differences in employment legislation between the UK, Northern Ireland and ROI, please contact a member of our team.

Michael Farrell is a Director at PFK FPM.