New Workflex legislation a big step in the right direction
By Lisa Horn, Director, Congressional Affairs
Nearly everyone in the workforce today is familiar with the challenges of meeting our work and family obligations. Moms and dads struggle to take care of sick children – or just pick them up from daycare – while meeting the next project deadline. Experienced professionals balance company budgets while arranging for long-term care for their aging parents. These are just two routine examples.
Meanwhile, thanks to technology and innovation across the economy, the definitions surrounding where and how work gets done have been transformed. That woman on her laptop in the local coffee bar could be posting brunch photos to Facebook or finishing an analysis of the fourth quarter sales figures for the regional operations of her employer.
The pace of change and the pressures of modern life are accelerating. This is empowering and stressful at the same time. I know I can relate to this challenging equation – how to do it all – personally.
Many HR pros reading this can also relate to one of the challenges facing those who manage today’s employees – the confusing patchwork of state and local paid sick leave laws. These laws make the world of work even tougher to navigate.
Solving these kinds of challenges is what we do at SHRM – it is at the heart of our effort to create a 21st century workplace that is innovative, fair and competitive. To address the intertwining trends of family obligations, the anytime-anywhere workplace and lack of policy clarity, we’ve been working with our members on a solution that allows employees to better handle all their obligations.
We call it Workflex – a fresh approach to managing the workforce that allows a range of options over where, when and how work gets done. Now there is new federal legislation that takes our solution to the next level. Recently introduced in Congress by Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA), H.R. 4219, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, would provide Workflex for all employees at participating employers, while granting those employers relief from varying state and local requirements.
First, the bill would require participating employers to offer a guaranteed level of paid leave to each employee – more generous than all mandated state leave requirements
– in exchange for a federal standard that supersedes state and local laws. Employees get guaranteed leave, and employers get predictability and equity across their workforces. It solves one half of the equation.
Second, H.R. 4219 would require those same employers to offer every employee a flexible work arrangement. Employees would gain access to a range of options, including working from home, flexible scheduling or compressing their schedules into fewer days per week, for example. Employees receive new tools to help them meet their responsibilities on and off the job, while employers get more productive employees. It solves the other half of the equation.
The bill does all that – and it’s voluntary with no cost to taxpayers, to boot. Under this legislation, we can take an important step forward in our efforts to empower our people to handle both sides of the equation with less stress.
We hope you will learn more about the Workflex in the 21st Century Act and help us get it over the finish line. You can learn more at advocacy.shrm.org/workflex.