Frequently Asked Questions (FWA)

Scheduling

1. How should a manager respond to requests for varying schedules from many members of a large team?

Managers must determine their needs, such as core hours, attendance at meetings, client service requirements, priority and progress reporting and manage employee schedules in line with these requirements. We recommend that managers meet with their team and discuss flextime and work from home as a group to find the best solutions for all involved.

 

2. Can managers determine a blackout period where employees may not work from home or have a flextime schedule?

Yes, a unit may have peak or critical periods when employees are required to be present. This may mean that earlier or later start times or work from home are not possible during this period. We recommend that managers discuss any blackout period(s) with their employees and include the information in the FWA Request.

 

3. We are looking at implementing core hours from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Is this acceptable?

Yes, this is acceptable, understanding that lunch and breaks may be taken during this period.

 

4. We are considering requiring that work hours fall between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm. Is this acceptable?

Yes, this is acceptable if there is an operational reason for these hours. The standard work week for administrative and support staff is 33.75 hours (clerical) or 35 hours (technical), Monday through Friday, and the standard workday is 6.75 hours (clerical) or 7 hours (technical).

Daily scheduled hours are determined by the unit/department. It is the responsibility of the manager to coordinate work schedules while maintaining operational needs, office/department coverage, and establish means and methods for supervision and monitoring workloads and results. As such, it is at the discretion of the manager to implement the general hours of work in a given unit in order to meet operational needs. In some cases, MUNACA for instance, existing hours may be modified after proper notice has been provided.

 

5. Can employees bank 45 minutes from their lunch break daily and leave early on Fridays using the banked time?

No, employees are expected to work the standard 6.75 hours (clerical and M positions) or 7 hours (technical) per day on every work day, including Fridays. In addition, lunch breaks are unpaid and therefore cannot be banked for later use.

 

6. Can an employee combine work from home and flextime, e.g. reduce the lunch hour to 30 minutes daily and work from home one day per week?

Yes, as long as it operationally feasible.

 

7. What is the longest period an employee can ask for the flexible work arrangements?

The FWA pilot program runs to the end of December 2020.

 

8. Can an employee request to work from home one day per week or should it be less often?

The FWA guidelines offer employees the option to work from home up to one day a week.

 

9. Can an employee accrue overtime while working from home?

No, overtime requests must be approved in advance. The manager should review the request and approve or deny it as per the normal process.

 

10. Can employees work from home during the Summer Friday period?

Yes, during the Summer Friday period employees are permitted to work from home for a maximum of one day a week. The manager needs to discuss with the employee what is feasible and take into consideration impact on operations for any given week.

 

11. How do we manage flextime schedules with MUNACA employees who typically work approved overtime for events or meetings taking place before or after their normal daily hours?

The approved flextime schedule should not increase or reduce approved overtime. The flextime schedule outlined in the Request document should include a statement to the effect that on the day of an early or late meeting the employee’s regular hours will apply.

 

12. Is it possible for an employee to take a 15 minute break right after their lunch?

No, breaks can only be taken between periods of work.

 

13. If an employee is asked to work in office on a day that was normally their WFH day, can the WFH day be rescheduled that week or should it be cancelled?

If the employee is asked to come to the office for the day they are normally scheduled to work from home, the manager and employee should discuss if working from home on an alternate day that week is possible. If it is not possible, the manager may cancel the work from home day that week.

 

Equipment and Setup

1. Are employees who have special workspace arrangements (e.g. 2 screens, vertical mouse, ergonomic chair, etc.), expected to have these at home, too? If yes, could they just bring the mouse from work and work with one screen for one day as an exception?

As per the FWA guidelines, employees are responsible for providing the necessary computer equipment, space, telephone, printing, networking and/or internet capabilities when working from home to perform their normal work duties.

Employees are not permitted to bring home any computer equipment from the office (except if the employee has been assigned a laptop or cell phone).

 

2. Is it okay for employees who do not have a landline or printer at home to just use their cell phone and print at work the next day?

Employees are required to provide a phone number where they can be contacted during their workday at home (landline or cell).

Most positions do not require access to a printer from home. If they do not have a printer at home, employees should print their documents when they are back at the office.

 

3. When employees work from home, should they forward their work phone to their home phone?

Yes, we recommend that employees forward their work phone to their home or cell phone.

 

4. When will HR be distributing the University’s IT policies and checklist to managers?

As per the McGill FWA guidelines website (section Considerations for Flexible Arrangements), there are two (2) links highlighted in the Employee section:

At the moment, the Faculty does not have an IT checklist.

 

5. Can managers require staff working from home to have a remote desktop connection in order to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of data (i.e, saving files on a secure network drive)?

As per the FWA guidelines, employees need to meet the operational needs of the unit when working from home. As such, if access to a remote desktop connection (via McGill; MUHC) is required for the employee to maintain operational day-to-day activities of the unit, managers can approve the request only after the remote desktop connection is set up.

Please see IT University policies and procedures concerning data protection and records management as well as IT Resources for Faculty & Staff Working from Home for set-up instructions.

 

6. In order to ensure continuity of service, can an employee be required to work from a generic email account when working from home?

If the employee is already using a generic email account when at the workplace, he or she should be doing the same when working from home.

 

7. Can a manager request the password of a generic email account used by an employee working from home?

If a manager normally needs the password of a generic email to manage an inbox, he or she will continue to have this access on days employees are working from home.

 

8. Will there be IT support available to employees who work from home?

Yes, it is available.

Reviewing the Request

1. Should functional supervisors such as the Program Directors, be consulted on flexible work arrangements?

When the manager and employee discuss the FWA request, it important to consider impacts on team and operations and possible mitigation strategies. This includes impacts on functional supervisors like Program Directors. As such, we recommend consulting with functional supervisors when evaluating the feasibility of an FWA request.

If a client presents in person and needs immediate assistance, in-office staff should assess the need and offer help where they can. A team discussion could help build a clear understanding regarding how to handle these situations.

 

2. How can a manager ensure client service delivery for clients of staff who are working from home?

Staff who are not in the office on a given day must remain available to their clients. Please ensure that they communicate to their clients how they can be reached on days when they are working from home.

 

3. Are managers expected to go to employees’ homes to determine if work conditions are appropriate?

While employees must provide their home address and contact coordinates, managers are not expected to visit employees at home to determine if work conditions are appropriate. It is the employee’s obligation to ensure their home environment meets requirements. Employees who want to work from home must also complete and sign the Health and Safety form found here: https://www.mcgill.ca/hr/flexibility/fwa under ‘tools and request form’. McGill or the CNESST may visit the employee's home in case of incident or accident.

 

4. Are employees who are working from home expected to check in with their managers throughout the day? Are managers expected to call their employees throughout the day?

The program does not require frequent check-ins with staff working from home. The frequency and mode of communication is at the discretion of the manager and should be discussed with the employee when reviewing the request. It will depend on the work performed and level of supervision required.

When the manager and the employee discuss the FWA request, it is important that they are clear about schedule, expectations, deliverables, modes of communication, terms for modifying agreement, monitoring progress, etc. It should be the same as if the employee was not working from home.

Eligibility

1. Can a manager prohibit work from home for employees throughout their first year in the position?

No. As per the FWA guidelines, the program is not available to new employees on a probation or trial period, but once the trial or probation period ends, the employee’s FWA request must be assessed on its merits.

 

2. Are employees on a TAWA (Temporary Alternative Work Arrangement) eligible for the FWA Program?

At this time, the Faculty does not permit employees on a TAWA to work from home. They are, however, eligible for flextime.

Assessing and Changing an FWA

1. Should the work objectives for an employee working from home be set on a weekly basis or ahead for the entire requested period? In addition, should reporting on the day worked at home be done in person via email?

When the manager and the employee discuss the FWA request, it is important that both sides are clear about schedule, expectations, deliverables, modes of communication, terms for modifying agreement, monitoring progress, etc. The planning of objectives, tasks, reporting procedures, etc. is at the discretion of the manager and should be discussed and implemented with the involvement of the employee.

 

2. How often should managers assess the flexible working arrangement?

If an FWA is approved, the manager must meet the employee within 3 months of start date to assess its impact and ongoing viability. It is at the discretion of the manager to determine how often they assess the employee’s work arrangement and its impact on the unit. As per the FWA guidelines, FWAs may be terminated at the request of the manager with 30-days written notice.

 

3. Can a manager modify an FWA schedule?

Both the employee and the manager will meet to evaluate the FWA within 3 months of the start date of the FWA to assess its impact and ongoing viability. The manager may ask the employee to modify the FWA schedule at this time.

Flexible Work Arrangements may be terminated at the request of the manager or the employee with a 30-day written notice. This notice can be shortened with agreement from all parties.

Declining a Request

1. Will FWA requests that are denied be reviewed by HR?

We recommend that managers consult with HR before denying a request. In some situations, the requested arrangement may not be possible but suitable alternatives may be found. If the request is denied, it is important that the manager have a conversation with the employee to ensure they understand the decision.

 

2. Can managers deny a request before evaluating it in detail?

In some cases, yes. FWAs are not suitable for all positions or for all employees. Positions that require all or most of the work to be done on campus, such as facilities maintenance, frontline client services, and lab monitoring, etc., would not be suitable for WFH arrangements. Employees who are in a trial or probation period, or on a performance improvement plan are not eligible for the FWA Program. In all cases, it is important that the manager explain the reason the request is denied to the employee.

 

3. How will HR support managers if a decision to refuse an FWA request is challenged?

The FWA pilot project was created to offer more flexibility in the work schedules of employees. The University has maintained that employees should have the opportunity for a flexible work schedule and/or work from home day as long as it is operationally suitable (see guidelines for true exceptions).

To decline a request a manager must have clear reasons. As noted above, managers are encouraged to discuss these cases with HR before informing the employee. If the refusal is valid, the manager has a conversation with the employee and provides the reason. HR will field any other questions by the employee and/or by the Union/Association.

 

4. Should a manager decline a request to work from home if the employee has displayed undocumented insubordination and problems respecting work hours?

If there is no record of insubordination or difficulty respecting hours of work, this is not sufficient to decline a request. Managers should address performance, behavioural or disciplinary issues with their employees and document it properly. We recommend that you consult your HR Advisor to determine an action plan. If these issues continue, the manager may terminate the FWA with 30-days written notice.

Accidents at Home

1. If an accident occurs at home, what is the reporting process?

The employee must maintain a safe, secure and ergonomic work environment. Employees are expected to comply with normal reporting requirements for a work-related accident or injury and report the accident immediately to their supervisor and complete the accident report: (https://www.mcgill.ca/ehs/forms/forms/accident-and-incident-report. Work accidents that occur at home fall under Loi sur les accidents du travail et les maladies professionnnelles.

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