Both Christine and I have talked about how we believe that workflex opportunities serve as a competitive advantage for our clients. With our startup clients, who are asking employees to work insanely hard for a while without a lot of perks until things get up and running, workflex is often the best thing they have to offer.
“Yes you are going to be working crazy hours and filling many roles for a few months, but hey, you can do it from the comfort of your own bed without any pants on.”
That is an actual selling feature I have heard a startup founder use. Here’s another.
“The great news is I don’t care if you have to leave to take your kid to the doctor or if you need to work from home one day because they are sick. The bad news is I still expect the full amount of work to be done at the end of the week so you have to figure out how to still get it done. We are a team and will help, but it’s your responsibility to make sure it happens and you ask for that help.”
In both of these situations the candidate has taken the job. Why? Because in 2018 and in the years preceding workflex is becoming increasingly important.
The government has tried to encourage employers to offer more workflex in the way of sick leave laws or through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While their intent is good, the administration of these laws can become a nightmare. Especially if you have employees in different states and therefore under different laws.
In my home state of California even individual cities or counties have different laws. We have the state law and then cities (hello San Francisco) will often enact their own version which is often more generous. Meaning employers in California could have to worry about multiple laws even if their employees are all in the same state. Unlike the federally mandated FMLA, these state laws affect even the smallest of employers so it is something most of our clients have to deal with. They want to offer leave and workflex, but the state and or city mandated laws are often hard to administer and cost the business more than they make up for in competitive advantage.
Enter the Workflex in the 21st Century Act which is backed by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). The bill, introduced in the House in 2017 offers opt-in legislation that supersedes state and local leave laws. The ERISA qualified plan includes a federal standard of paid sick leave and options for workflex such as condensed work weeks or telecommute options.
It’s important to note that the act has not yet passed, but SHRM is pushing forward along with the support of a House Representative. They are pushing for a Senate sponsor to help introduce the bill there. They have the support of sponsors from additional states and appears to be gaining momentum since introduction.
Here’s what we like about the bill. First and foremost it provides a framework that, because it is more generous than state and local laws, can be applied uniformly across all employees. Rather than offer certain leave to employees in San Francisco than those in Denver, this framework can be used for all employees and will fulfill the requirements of whatever state or city the employee lives in.
Second, the act gives employees more paid leave than is currently offered. Many of our clients struggle with what the right amount of leave is. If they don’t have a legal reference because it isn’t required where they live, they often do not know how much is enough to give employees what they need and also be competitive. This bill will answer those questions for them. Employers who opt-in will know they are offering some of the most generous paid leave out there.
Third, it includes workflex. It provides several options for employer to include for employees as an opportunity to enjoy workflex arrangements. This encourages employers to think beyond paid leave and think about other ways they can help employees better manage work and home obligations. In fact, our clients who offer high degrees of workflex find that employees use less paid time off in the way of sick leave because they are able to better manage their obligations. The benefits far outweigh the struggle to implement workflex for those who have environments where they can offer it.
We will be keeping an eye on this bill and the activity around it. It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out. I am thankful to SHRM for pushing this forward as it’s a conversation we should have been having years ago.
You can read more about what SHRM and others are saying about this bill at the links below.
A New Approach to Paid Leave: WorkFlex in the 21st Century– Louis R. Lessig, Esquire SHRM-SCP SPHR
What is the WorkFlex in the 21st Century Act? Michael Haberman, Omega HR Solutions
Solving the Workplace Equation #WorkFlex- Lisa Horn, Director, Congressional Affairs and the Co-Leader of SHRM’s Workplace Flexibility Initiative
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