House Introduces Working Family Flexibility Act

On December 6, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Working Family Flexibility Act (H.R. 4301), which will give working Americans the right to request flexible work options in order to balance the demands of their jobs and home life. The legislation is patterned on similar laws in Europe that have been implemented with great success.

Under this legislation:
  • An employee may request to modify his or her hours, schedule, or work location.
  • Employees and employers will engage in an interactive process to discuss the employee's needs and how to address them with no or minimal disruption to the employer’s business.
  • Employers who deny a request must explain the grounds for the denial.
  • Employees who make requests are protected from retaliation.
  • Small businesses are exempt from the law.
  • The Department of Labor will develop regulations to smoothly administer the process, while ensuring the protection of employees' legal rights.

"Between trying to make ends meet and carving out time to care for their young children and aging relatives, parents across America are often stretched thin and need flexibility at work," Senator Clinton said, "I'm pleased to join Senator Kennedy in introducing this important piece of legislation to support our nation's working families."



Katherine said...

While I support legislation like this, I can't help but also point out that just because little Johnie has a soccer game doesn't mean the boss doesn't need the report by Friday. By presenting an act like this it creates a "protected class" of citizens that can manipulate their schedules with governmental protection... and leaves everyone else to do their work. Given the amount of resentment and backlash this is likely to create, I have to wonder how employers will handle it when their unprotected employees revolt at being given twice the workload.

Maryanne said...

Holland, Germany and England have had similar legislation in place since the early 2000s and they've learned two important things: (1) the flood gates never opened because most people were satisified with their full-time work schedule; (2) of the flexibility requests companies did receive, the majority were accepted because they could create a WIN-WIN for employers and employees.

In today's ultra-customized world (we can get everything from music to coffee to our news the way we want it!) why can't the workplace be customized, too? What's so magical about workers working the same schedule and from the same location? If Johnie's Dad has to pick him up early, why should that matter if Johnie's Dad can complete the important report from home (or the soccer sidelines)? In today's workplace, it shouldn't be the time you spend in the office that defines work, but instead, the results you deliver.

Many companies are benefiting from rethinking work and offering employees greater flexibility in where & when they work. Best Buy and Deloitte are two great examples where the flexibility they offer isn't a "perk" for a few, but a company-wide way of life. They've both realized some very real benefits from their flexible approach to work -- 35% increase in productivity at Best Buy corporate, and millions of dollars in avoided turnover cost at Deloitte.

Legislation is an important step in encouraging companies to deal with the realities of today's workforce, but ultimately, it will require a change in workplace culture and attitudes about what constitutes work.

Michelle said...

We all need to keep in mind that a company offering or being accepting of flexible work styles, does not mean working less - just differently. If the employee is not producing, whether from a child's soccer game sidelines or any other location, ultimately the employer has the ability to revoke the arrangement. We should all be professional enough to recognize whether or not the work necessary to meet a goal more importantly a timeline is being met or not.

The companies which tend to have a high retention rate (huge turnover cost savings and results in high levels of continuity for the company), are those that offer a flexible arrangement to their employee. This has been proven over and over.

Lillian Mojica, Research Attorney said...

While it is true that the proposed legislation, if passed, would create some new and potentially difficult challenges for employers attempting to effectively and fairly manage their workforce, it might also present some interesting opportunities and benefits as well.

Keep in mind that the new legislation would only provide employees with an opportunity to request flexible work schedules, and open up risk free communications with their employers on the issue. Employers would not be automatically forced to grant the requests. If the portion of your workforce not eligible to make flexible schedule requests would be unfairly overburdened with work because of flexible schedule requests made by other eligible employees, the effect on the business might be significant (or disruptive) enough to form the basis for denying a flexible schedule request, and certainly would be an important topic for discussion during the interactive process.

Additionally, if the legislation passes, the Department of Labor would develop regulations designed to iron out some of the administrative complexities and potential problems both employers and employees might face as a result of the new law. So for now, even though the proposed legislation might create some additional complexities for employers and HR professionals, we should be cautiously optimistic given the potential the new law has on reducing turnover, increasing productivity and generally increasing the quality of life for your workforce and their families.

Anonymous said...

While I support the intent of companies working with its employees to reach agreement on when and how to get work done, in some enviroments and settings this just isn't feasible. What this will result in is an additional burden on Human resources and other departments to deliver cumbersome information on a prescribed timeline. I also agree that it will, in fact, create another protected class of individuals. This will effectively make each employee "a bargaining unit of 1" and may become the next FMLA.


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