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 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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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 CareerBuilder.com 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:

Flex-Time.

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