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The Case for Workflex

Why a Workflex Bill?

The need for federal legislation to create one standard for Workflex—short for workplace flexibility—is urgent, because the modern workplace has changed and will continue to change rapidly. Employees need more options for getting their work done and taking time off, and employers need more certainty and predictability than the current patchwork of state and local paid leave laws provide. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.

What is Workflex?

Workflex—short for workplace flexibility—is a strategic business practice employers are implementing to respond to the fact that how, when and where work is done is changing in today’s modern workplace. It helps organizations create a modern work environment that is responsive to demographic, economic and technological changes.

Given these realities, the modern workplace would benefit from public policy options that encourage employers to implement Workflex strategies that help employees meet their work-life needs.

Does Workflex Matter to Employees?

Yes! When asked, 87 percent of employees report that having the flexibility they need to manage work and personal or family life would be “extremely” or “very important” if they were looking for a new job. As a result, employers continue to adopt telecommuting programs and other flexible workplace arrangements to recruit and retain talent. Given the growing employee demand for flexibility, organizations that do not offer these options risk a competitive disadvantage when it comes to recruitment, retention and employer branding efforts.

What are Employers Already Doing?

Given the importance to employees, more and more employers are already voluntarily offering workflex:

  • 99 percent of employers offer some form of paid leave.
  • 58 percent of employers offer maternity leave; 16 percent offer spouse or partner leave.
  • Flexibility concerning when and where full-time employees work is on the rise, including working remotely occasionally, which saw an increase to 66 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2008.
  • 43 percent of employers offer compressed workweeks.
  • 44 percent of employers allow for shift flexibility.
  • 81 percent of employers offer flextime, allowing employees to periodically change starting and quitting times within some range of hours.
  • 19 percent of employers offer job-sharing.

What Are Governments Doing to Support Workflex?

Unfortunately, various state and local governments have enacted a patchwork of mandates over paid leave. While research shows that an overwhelming majority of employers offer paid leave to their employees, providing these benefits has become more difficult to administer given this fragmented patchwork of state and local paid leave mandates.

What Problems Do State and Local Paid Leave Laws Create?

State and local paid leave laws are complex and create a fragmented patchwork that is hard for employers to navigate—and it’s getting worse. Overlapping and fragmented paid leave laws specify different levels of leave, employee eligibility rules and accrual rates—creating a complex problem for employers, particularly multistate employers. Currently, ten states and more than 30 jurisdictions have passed sick leave laws and four states have state paid leave insurance laws:

  • State-wide Sick Leave Mandates: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington
  • Local Sick Leave Mandates:
    • California: Berkeley, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica
    • District of Columbia
    • Illinois: Chicago, Cook County
    • Maryland: Montgomery County
    • Minnesota: Minneapolis, Saint Paul
    • New Jersey: Bloomfield, East Orange, Elizabeth, Irvington, Jersey City, Montclair, Morristown, New Brunswick, Newark, Passaic, Paterson, Plainfield, Trenton
    • New York: New York City
    • Oregon: Portland
    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
    • Washington: Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Spokane
  •  State Paid Leave Insurance Laws: California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island

This trend, which is expected to continue, creates a fragmented system of state and local leave law mandates.

The Society for Human Resource Management has created an interactive state map where you can explore the patchwork of state and local paid leave laws.

How Do Government Mandates Impact Employees?

Some employers have scaled back existing leave coverage or are less inclined to expand coverage in reaction to new leave mandates. As indicated in the 2014 National Study of Employers, with the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, providing 12 weeks of leave for many employees has become the new norm. Employers tend to restructure and scale back existing leave benefits as a result of government mandates, resulting in fewer benefits for employees.

How Do Government Mandates Impact Employers?

 When the government imposes rigid mandates on employers, organizations have to absorb these added costs. This often forces them to reduce or eliminate other employee benefits, such as health, retirement or educational benefits, or delay wage increases. In the end, employees lose valuable benefits and risk their economic security.

What Can Policymakers Do to Help?

Policymakers can start by recognizing that one size does not fit all. E4F believes the government should encourage paid leave and workplace flexibility—without creating new mandates on employers that often curtail flexibility and paid leave options to employees. One size does not fit all, and what works for one employer may not work for another workforce, employer or industry. This is why E4F opposes proposals that mandate or require paid leave or Workflex.

This is also why E4F supports the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, federal legislation proposed by Representative Mimi Walters, R-Calif. Click here to learn why this bill is win-win-win for employees, employers and the U.S. economy. Click here for a summary of the bill.