Two Flexible Work Schedule Bills
With America reopening in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, employees are returning to the office after working remotely for more than a year, but some may not be able to come back for various reasons. In order to ease the transition for all parties involved, two bills were recently introduced before the California legislature that would give employers and employees the power to agree to mutually-beneficial flexible work schedules. The two pieces of legislation, Assembly Bill 230 and Assembly Bill 1028, introduced in January and February 2021, respectively, would create a narrow new exception to the existing 8-hour overtime rule by giving employees the right to request a remote, flexible work schedule of up to four 10-hour days per week. However, under this new arrangement, the employer would not be required to pay increased overtime wages for the 9th and 10th hours of each workday as is normally required by state law. AB1028 would also allow employees working these flexible schedules more leeway when planning their meal and rest breaks throughout the workday. With the introduction of these bills, it seems clear that California is prepared to give both employers and employees additional benefits to make flexible work schedules easier to create and maintain.
Give and Take
While AB230 and AB1028 would put more power into the hands of employees by giving them the ability to request remote, flexible schedules, it should be noted that employers are not required to approve the request and that nothing introduced in either AB230 or AB1028 is mandatory. Additionally, the flexible work schedule may be discontinued at any time by either the employer or employee giving notice to the other party, so it’s not a permanent imposition. Further, employers who agree to a flexible work schedule are no longer required to pay the overtime rate unless the employee works more than 10 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week, which provides some economic relief and incentive. So these bills would not be all bad for employers as they provide some impressive carrots for employers who have the capacity to allow their employees the opportunity to work remotely.
Though employers may be skeptical of such changes and allowing more employees to work remotely, it must be noted that AB230 and AB1028 are both still pending in the California Legislature. Both bills have been referred to the Committee on Labor and Employment where they will be subject to further debate and scrutiny by committee members before an eventual vote is taken and AB 1028 has also been referred to the Committee on Judiciary. All of this means that the bills face some hurdles and could be changed or outright rejected before the full legislature ever gets a chance to vote on them. In the meantime, employers should consider the possible impact of this legislation when making plans for how and when they will let employees who can’t return to the office work remotely.