Articles Posted in Flextime

Earlier this month, the President proclaimed October 2012 National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The observance is intended to raise awareness about disability employment issues and to celebrate the contributions of our country’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?”

In conjunction with NDEAM, he U.S. Department of Labor has launched an online Workplace Flexibility Toolkit to “provide employees, job seekers, employers, policymakers and researchers with information, resources and a unique approach to workplace flexibility.”

According to the U.S. DOL, the toolkit “points visitors to case studies, fact and tip sheets, issue briefs, reports, articles, websites with additional information, other related toolkits and a list of frequently asked questions. It is searchable by type of resource, target audience and types of workplace flexibility, including place, time and task.”

A law first proposed by the late Senator Ted Kennedy has been resurrected and introduced in the Senate by Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). The law mirrors legislation introduced in the House of Representatives in March 2009 which, to date, has gone  nowhere. Premised on the purported need of employees to have more flexible work options, it authorizes an employee to request from an employer a change in the terms or conditions of the employee’s employment if the request relates to: (1) the number of hours the employee is required to work; (2) the times when the employee is required to work; or   (3) where the employee is required to work.Juggle work and home with red hands

The proposal does not require the employer to grant any requests, but does set forth employer duties with respect to such requests, and makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with any rights provided to an employee under the Act. Under regulations to be promulgated by the Secretary of Labor, an employer would have to hold a meeting with the requesting employee and give the employee a written decision on the request, discussing the reason for any rejection and addressing a prescribed list of possible explanations. An employee would be entitled to request reconsideration and the employer would be required to provide a written response to that request as well. In short, it would create an unnecessary paperwork nightmare.

The proposed law also authorizes an employee to file a complaint with the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration of the Department of Labor for any alleged violations of rights, and provides for the investigation and assessment of civil penalties or the award of relief for alleged violations.

The timing of its introduction suggests that S. 3840  is a political ploy. In view of the current mood of the populace, passage of the legislation is, to put it mildly, a longshot.

The trial in a class-action lawsuit alleging that Novartis Pharmaceuticals practiced sex discrimination against female employees has begun in a federal court in New York. The class of plaintiffs includes more than 5,600 saleswomen, who are seeking $200 million in damages. According to the New York Times, the suit alleges discriminatory pay and promotions targeting women, particularly pregnant ones.

It remains to be seen if the plaintiffs will be able to prove their case, but the allegations include some pretty shocking (and dumb) comments by managers, including my favorite, in which a manager reportedly told a saleswoman that he preferred not to hire young women, saying, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage.”

As we’ve long known, flexible schedules can play an important-often critical-role in work-family balance. Without the option, many women report they would not return to the workplace (at least for some period of time following their maternity leave) after having a new child. But the fact the option exists on the company books does not necessarily mean it’s an appealing one: in many workplaces they are offered, but not widely utilized because of the stigma associated with them. Other employees take advantage of them, but understand they’re a “career killer.” If the reported comment by a Novartis manager is true, it reveals a far more sinister possibility: the mere existence of flexible schedules may result in women being discriminated against from the outset, based on fear that they might actually use them.

As I’ve posted before, making an employment decision because of mere assumptions about a woman’s caregiving responsibilities and how that might affect her performance, is sex discrimination, plain and simple. It’s been labeled as Family Responsibility Discrimination or Caregiver Discrimination, and if it’s not based on actual performance, it’s illegal. So is failure to hire or promote a woman out of fear she might eventually utilize a firm’s flex-time schedule.

If employers are going to offer flex-time schedules, they can’t discriminate against the women who elect to use them. Even worse is treating women differently based on the mere possibility that they might use them.

Workplace flexibility has been a hot topic, a highlight of which was President Obama’s White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility, televised earlier this week. The forum was designed as an opportunity for labor leaders, CEOs, small business owners, and policy experts to share their ideas and strategies for making the workplace more flexible for workers and their families. During the conference, the President compared flexible work schedules to the early stages of email: some companies have it, some don’t, but eventually, all companies will. Get ready employers – if you haven’t gotten aboard yet, the train may run you over!

Juggle work and home workplace flexibility

With healthcare out of the way, the administration is freed up to focus on other priorities. During the campaign, then-candidate Obama included work-life issues as an important part of his agenda, committing to expand FMLA, to prevent caregiver discrimination, and to offer incentives to employers to expand flexible work arrangements.  The forum indicates  that work-life issues remain a focus of this administration. Although the Obamas now have a personal chef, chauffeurs, and other assistance to make their “balance” a little easier, I am sure that Michelle’s experience managing a demanding career and raising her two girls has helped to ensure this issue remains on the President’s radar screen.

The discussion has taken different varied focuses over the years, but the bottom line is this: for many reasons, in order to retain employees in the modern workforce, employers have to reinvent the old model of an ideal worker. Flexible work schedules are over and over again focused on as the reasonable way to accommodate the needs of both employer and employee. The impetus for employers to engage in this discussion has  evolved a bit over the years.

First, employers were interested in the topic primarily due to the economics of investment in skilled workforce (particularly professional women), who often left the job because unable to balance their work and family responsibilities. Then Gen Y came along, with both males and females placing a greater value on “down” time, whether with family or pursuing other activities. Gen Y consistently ranks workplace flexibility among the most desirable employment benefits. With the economic downturn, the discussion turned to how flexible schedules could immediately help the bottom line (4-day workweeks, voluntary reduction in hours for reduction in pay, etc.).

Law and politics have not shied away from the discussion: both Republican and Democratic administrations have made important advancements to the cause of work-life balance. In 2007, the EEOC under the Bush administration issued it Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiver Responsibilities. In 2009, Obama’s administration issued  Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiver Responsibilities, which focused primarily on flexible work arrangements. The White House Forum has work-life balance advocates everywhere eager to see what will come next!


See these related posts for more about work-life balance:

Resources for Work-Life Balance and Flexible Work Arrangements

Maybe It’s Not All Gloom and Doom for Work-Life Balance

Looking a Flexible-Schedule Gift Horse in the Mouth

Caregiver Discrimination: The “Sandwiched Generation”

5 Steps Toward a More Flexible Workplace

Thanks to everyone who attended the audio conference on Caregiver Discrimination, presented by Adria B. Martinelli and Margaret M. DiBianca.  As promised during the conference, we’re posting some of the many resources that are available online where employers can locate specific information and research to use in pitching the idea of Flexible Workplace Arrangements.


Two of the Leading Work-Life Centers

Workplace Flexibility 2010, at the Georgetown University Law Center, has a virtual tremendous amount of helpful resources,including A Fact Sheet on Flexible Work Arrangements and Flexible Work Arrangements: The Overview Memo.

Another leader in the field of work-life balance is the Sloan Work and Family Institute.  Here, you’ll find a treasure trove of detailed information about flexible work arrangements, including an extensive compilation of Workplace Flexibility Case Studies.



The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), has a good webpage on the topic of flexible workplace initiatives, where it links to several other great resources, including:

Article: “Incidence of Flexible Work Schedules Increases”
A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Monthly Labor Review article stating that from 1991 to 1997, the percentage of full-time wage and salary workers with flexible work schedules on their principal job increased from 15.1 percent to 27.6 percent. baby wearing headset

Article: “Flexible Schedules and Shift Work: Replacing the ‘9-To-5’ Workday?”
Article from BLS’ Monthly Labor Review Online.

Article: “Over One Quarter of Full-time Workers Have Flexible Schedules”
More information on flexible schedules.

Article: “Flexible Work Schedules: What Are We Trading Off to Get Them?”
More information on flexible schedules.

Article: “Executives most likely to have flexible work hours”
More information on flexible schedules.

Article: “Workers with Longer Workweeks Often Earn More Per Hour”
Article published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics stating that the weekly earnings of workers who work an extended workweek (between 45 and 99 hours) earn at least 32% more money than those who work a standard workweek (between 35 and 44 hours).

Index of BLS Reports on Workers on Flexible and Shift Schedules
A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the trend towards flexible work schedules.


10 More (Great) Resources

The Center for Companies that Care is a national, not-for-profit organization “dedicated to enhancing the well-being of employees and communities.”

Center for Women’s Business Research “is the go-to source on the trends, characteristics, achievements, and challenges of women business owners and their enterprises.”

Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP), “undertakes research and works with employers to design, promote, and implement workplace policies that increase productivity and enhance personal/family well-being. CWLP is committed to promoting policies that enable individuals to realize their full potential across the divides of gender, race and class.”

Corporate Voices for Working Families is a “non-profit corporate membership organization created to bring the private sector voice into the public dialogue on issues affecting working families.”

The MIT Workplace Center is part of the MIT Sloan School of Management

Parenting in the Workplace Institute‘s  mission is “to promote, educate, and provide resources for successful implementation of parenting in the workplace structures nationally and worldwide.”

Rutgers Center for Women and Work, is part of the School of Management and Labor Relations, and addresses “women’s advancement in the workplace and conducts cutting-edge research on successful public and workplace policies.”

WFC Resources formerly Work & Family Connection) has been working since 1984 “to help employers create a workplace that’s both supportive and effective.”

When Work Works “is a nationwide initiative to highlight the importance of workforce effectiveness and workplace flexibility as strategies to enhance businesses’ competitive advantage in the global economy and yield positive business results.”

Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit providing consulting, training and information to “help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces.”


And, of course, Delaware Employment Law Blog has bunches of resources, too.

See Previous posts on Alternative-Work Schedules, Flextime Initiatives, Telecommuting, and other Work-Life Balance issues.

Flexible work schedules come in every shape and size. Job sharing is just one type of work arrangement that offers employees flexibility and, in turn, the opportunity for an approved work-life balance. But what exactly is job sharing?  It’s just what sounds like–employees share job duties as a way to reduce each person’s job duties. Essentially, job sharing is a type of part-time work. It involves two or more workers who are responsible for the duties and tasks of one full-time position.

Some job shares are set up so that each employee handles specific duties.  Other job shares have a less formal division of duties. In either set up, the employees coordinate their schedules so that the regular “shift” is always covered.  When one job sharer is not working, the other is.  There is usually some overlap in scheduling to enable the sharers to communicate.  The division of time can be split evenly but any assignment can be successful.

The most basic requirement for potential job sharers is a well-honed sense of teamwork.  An employee who tends to be controlling of his or her duties may have difficulty in letting go of that control to another employee.  Communication skills also are critical.  The job sharers must be able not only to work well together, but also to be able to communicate when things are going well and when things are going not so well. 

The four-day work week is very popular among public employers these days.  Employers who have implemented a compressed work week program successfully say they’ve enjoyed benefits such as saved energy costs, decreased absenteeism, and improved employee morale resulting from the change. 

I don’t believe that a four-day work week is the solution of all solutions, as some have claimed.  But I do believe that there are certain organizations that, because of their structure and purpose, can be good models for the program.  The ideal candidates, though, are almost always government employers.  A mandatory four-day work week, generally, is not realistic in the private sector. image

But does that general proposition lose its vigor in a bad economy?  Can the four-day work week be implemented in the private sector more effectively because of the downturn?  It turns out that flexible schedules can have important benefits in an economic downtime, just as they can in times of fiscal health.  The trick, though, is to get employers to be aware of the opportunities.  

Fast Company blogger, Cali Yost, has an ongoing series of posts about the benefits of “flexible downsizing” and why employers are better suited to consider this option as opposed to layoffs.  In a recent post, she explains:

There are creative, cost-effective ways to use strategic work+life flexibility to reduce labor costs while remaining connected to valuable talent. These options include reduced schedules, job sharing, sabbaticals, and contract workers.

In a recent interview with Penn professor and author, Dr. Peter Capelli, Yost questioned why more employers aren’t taking advantage of the benefits that can be derived from a flexible-downsizing initiative.  Most employers, said Capelli, are too short-sighted, focusing only on short-term cuts instead of the longer term savings to be had.  Capelli asserts that it is cheaper to retain an employee at  5% reduction in pay than to layoff 5% of the workforce because “there are no severance packages; the legal liability and associated costs are much less; and the savings come instantly without the agonizing administrative process of figuring out who has to go…”.

Flexible downsizing is also a valuable option when employers are trying desperately to avoid layoffs–at the cost of the fiscal health of the organization.  These companies are so pained by the thought of laying off personnel that they avoid doing so to the extent that it actually results in more layoffs in the long-term.  Alternatives such as voluntary, across-the-board pay cuts, reduced-hour schedules, and furloughs of even a few weeks can mean the difference between voluntary, and relatively minor, cut-backs now and involuntary and severe cut-backs later. 

Flexible work schedules are continually becoming one of the most demanded employment benefits.  Life Meets Work is an organization that promotes flexible work schedules and alternative work arrangements. The organization is currently conducting its first annual survey on the topic of work-life balance. karen_juggler

The goal of the survey, called Flexing, Floundering, or ‘Just Fine Thanks’: Work/Life Issues in America, is to capture the opinions of Americans challenges in balancing work and life, the role of government in work-life initiatives, and flexible work programs. Life Meets Work also wants to hear about the flex programs, and work-life initiatives from an employer’s perspective.

Whether you’re working parent, stay-at-home mom, business owner or human resources executive, Life Meets Work want to hear from you. The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Your responses are confidential.

The results of the study, along with a corresponding white paper, will be presented on a free Webinar, appropriately titled after the survey,  on October 28, 2008.

15% of workers say they are late to work at least once a week and nearly 25% lie about the reasons why.  According to a new survey, 2008 Late to Work Survey, 43% of managers say they don’t mind if employees are late as long as their work is finished on time and done well.  Other managers, though, reported that they would consider terminating an employee who arrived late several times a year. 

When asked about the reasons for their tardiness, traffic was far and away the most common excuse, reported by more than 32% of employees surveyed.   17% reported that they had fallen back asleep and 7% pointed to a long commute.  27% of managers didn’t buy it, saying they were skeptical of the excuses.

In light of these statistics, is there a case to be made for flexible-hour initiatives?  Obviously, certain jobs require adherence to a specific schedule and do not allow for employees to come and go as they please.  Customer satisfaction, for example, would not benefit from a customer-service department where the phones went unmanned because employees decided to arrive later in the morning.  But other jobs can be performed successfully with flexible hours.  As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”  Is there some validity to that phrase in this context?


The popularity of a compressed workweek has skyrocketed. Workplace flexibility has long been heralded as a way to bolster employee retention. Alternative work schedules have even been lauded as a key to keeping women in the workplace and off the off-ramp.

And now, with towns and cities across the country adopting a four-day work week, the trend towards workplace flexibility isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But the four-day work week isn’t the only option. Here are some other options provided by When Work Works, a project of the Families & Work Institute:


Traditional flextime allows employees to chose their starting and quitting times within a range of hours surrounding core-operating hours. Daily flextime involves the same concept but allows employees to select their start and end times on a daily basis.

A compressed work week enables employees to work their full schedules over fewer number of working days. Usually this means 10 hours per day for 4 days, or 80 hours over 9 days. “Summer-hour” schedules add an hour to workdays Monday through Thursday, and end work at 1 pm on Fridays.


Time off during the workday to address personal and family issues includes time off for anticipated issues, such as parent-teacher conferences, or unanticipated issues, such as waiting at home for a repairman or delivery.

Paid time off to care for children permits employees to take off for a few days to care for a sick child without losing paid time.

Flex-Careers include multiple points for on- and off-ramping over the course of one career or working life. This can include formal leaves of absences and sabbaticals, as well as taking time out of the workforce.

Flex-Place is defined as working some or most of the employee’s working time at a location other than the employer’s main place of business. Telecommuting is included in this category.

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