Pilot projects on more flexible working time assessed

The 1999 collective agreement for Denmark's municipal sector allowed for the decentralisation of bargaining concerning working time. Many municipalities have since initiated pilot projects involving new forms of working time organisation, a number of which were assessed in 2004. Experience with the new models has been mixed

In recent years, a number of municipalities have initiated experiments with flexible forms of working time organisation. An experiment with employees alternating three days of work and three days off - the so-called '3-3 model'- was completed in November 2004 in the municipality of Præstø, to the south of Copenhagen. The project was reportedly not a success. Only one third of the employees involved now wish to continue to work on the basis of the new model, and when the pilot project was launched about a year previously, about one third of the employees chose to change to another job because they did not want to work under the new working time schedule. The model of alternating periods of three days work and three days off was copied from a scheme in Sweden, where the results are good, with lower sickness absence and greater job satisfaction. However, the outcomes have not been the same in Denmark.

It is not known how many municipalities have experimented the 3-3 model, but the model has been tested in the field of care for elderly people in the municipalities of Frederikshavn, Randers, Fredericia, København, Allerød, Århus and Greve. A study carried out by the Danish Trade Unions of Public Employees (Forbundet af Offentligt Ansatte, FOA) in 2002 found that one third of the employees in this sector were interested in introducing the 3-3 model at their workplace; but it also discovered that experiences varied considerably. 'It sounds promising to work for only three days, but this form of working time organisation is a major revolution for many people because it collides with their weekends,' says Karen Stæhr, who manages the sector of care of older people in FOA.

The 3-3 model is just one of many examples of pilot projects involving more flexible forms of work organisation in the municipal and county sectors. One in three workplaces in the municipal sector now offer employees the possibility of having a more flexible working day - this is a consequence of a framework agreement on decentralised working time agreements concluded between the social partners in the county/municipal sector in 1999 (DK9903114F). This framework agreement lays down a set of minimum rules, in addition to which there is ample room for concluding local agreements after discussions between employees and management. The framework agreement was evaluated in a report drawn up by the Rambøll Management institute, which was published in the spring of 2004.

One of the findings of the evaluation is that the effects have been positive at workplaces where local working time agreements have been concluded; services to users have been improved and the employees feel that they have obtained a higher degree of influence over the organisation of their work and working time. There is also a positive evaluation of the effects in relation to the working environment and the possibilities for ensuring a better reconciliation between work and family life. Managers are most positive about the schemes, while employees are moderately positive. According to the report, some workplaces have chosen not to use the possibility of concluding a local agreement because the central working time rules for the municipal sector are found to be fully adequate for an appropriate working time organisation. This view is shared equally by managers and employees.

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