This morning I had the opportunity to testify before the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions to express and explain SHRM’s support for H.R. 4219, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act.
More importantly, it was an opportunity to help lawmakers understand that the nature of “work” is completely transforming, and people and workforces are now the number-one contributor to the success of American business and our economy. They are the bottom line.
Thanks to record-low unemployment and an accelerating economy, benefits like paid leave and flexible work arrangements—like telework and flexible schedules—can no longer be considered attractive perks. Now employers need to offer them to attract and maintain an engaged, productive workforce for the future.
However, outdated workplace rules and government-mandated leave requirements make it hard for employers to offer these arrangements to all employees. The main problem—and we hear this from our members across the country—is inconsistent rules across states and localities.
This patchwork of laws—often conflicting with each other—really burdens employers, especially those operating in more than one location. SHRM believes the playing field can’t be level for employers or employees until we have a national solution to provide predictability for employers.
For more than a year, SHRM has worked closely on the bill’s content with its sponsor, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.), with input from a large cohort of HR professionals. The result is the right legislation at the right time. Heavy hitters like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, National Restaurant Association and many others have thrown in their support.
That’s because this legislation differs from other proposed solutions in a few important ways:
- First, while other proposals focus only on paid leave, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act provides both generous paid leave and flexible work options.
- Second, rather than imposing another one-size-fits-all government mandate, employer participation is voluntary and designed to meet the needs of both employers and employees.
- Third, it provides paid leave and workflex options to all employees of participating employers, not just a select few.
- Lastly, it is built on the solid foundation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), modified to allow employers to voluntarily offer a plan that meets a federal minimum standard of paid leave alongside popular flexible work options.
I want to thank every SHRM member who has contacted his or her Congressional representative, joined the A Team and kept up with developments on the Employers for Flexibility site. As of today, 49 SHRM State Councils and 170 Chapters have signed my letter of support for this legislation.
Workflex is an intelligent approach to a problem that affects businesses of all types and sizes and workers from across the socioeconomic and political spectrum. It has gained the support of groups such as the Republican Main Street Partnership and the Progressive Policy Institute. I am proud that SHRM is forging a path toward a solution that works for every worker and every workplace.
SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions on July 24. His full testimony on the Workflex in the 21st Century Act is available for viewing here.