Category Archives: Family & Work

Incenting Flexibility: The Relationship Between Public Law and Voluntary Action in Enhancing Work/Life Balance

Source: Rachel S. Arnow-Richman, Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 42, 2010

From the abstract:
Prepared for the University of Connecticut Law Review’s Conference, “Implications of the Four-Day Workweek,” this Paper examines the significance of a four-day, forty-forty work week to caregivers in need of individualized workplace accommodation. Employer interest in “four/forty” and other alternative work structures demonstrates that the current organization of market work is not inevitable and that its re-organization in ways that facilitate full participation by caregivers can sometimes be mutually beneficial. Yet it is unlikely that employers act optimally in responding to individual accommodation requests. Well-known limits on rational choice theory can impede supervisors’ ability to determine whether a particular accommodation will effectively enable the caregiver to perform her job and whether the costs entailed in adopting the accommodation will be outweighed by other savings. Thus, it is likely that some number of viable, cost-effective accommodations are not being implemented by employers.

The Paper argues that the law should play a role in facilitating optimal, individualized accommodation of working caregivers. Drawing on existing and pending legislation, it argues for the creation of a statutory “right to request” that would protect workers from retaliation for seeking accommodations and would require employers to consider such requests in good faith. By encouraging workers to come forward with their requests and requiring parties to engage in an “interactive process,” the law can potentially reduce some of the biases and informational gaps that currently plague discretionary employer decisions about accommodation requests. In this way, such a law may ultimately inspire mutually beneficial changes to work structure that would not have been achieved absent legal intervention

Who’s Minding The Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005/Summer 2006

Source: Lynda Laughlin, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P70-121, August 2010

Parents in the labor force face numerous decisions when balancing their work and home life, including choosing the type of care to provide for their children while they work. Deciding which child care arrangement to use has become an increasingly important family issue as maternal employment has become the norm, rather than the exception. Child care arrangements and their costs are important issues for parents, relatives, care providers, policy makers, and anyone concerned about children.

This report, which is the latest in a series that dates back to 1985, shows the number and characteristics of children in different types of child care arrangements in the spring of 2005 and the summer of 2006.
See also:
Press Release

Enhanced Employee Health, Well-Being, and Engagement through Dependent Care Supports

Source: Bright Horizons, 2010
(registration required)

From the abstract:
The Consulting Practice at Bright Horizons completed a comprehensive research study on the impact of dependent care supports on a variety of health and wellness as well as engagement measures. Organizations that offer dependent care supports, along with a culture that supports their use, have the potential to realize substantial savings from a reduction in healthcare costs. These organizations also benefit from reduced absenteeism, stronger retention — which will be increasingly important as the labor market loosens up — and a workforce that is more engaged in and committed to the success of their organization.
See also:
* Health & Wellness Presentation (PDF)
* Health & Wellness Webinar (Archive)
* Health & Wellness Q&A (PDF)

Workers Alleging Bias Against Caregivers

Source: Jennifer Ludden, National Public Radio – All Things Considered, June 10, 2010

“There’s no federal law that bans workplace discrimination against parents or people who care for elderly or disabled family members, but that hasn’t stopped a surge of lawsuits by such workers alleging unfair treatment by their employers. In the past 10 years, the number of such suits has quadrupled and many have been successful, according to the Center for WorkLife Law.

What a Difference a Day Makes, or Does It? Work/Family Balance and the Four-Day Work Week

Source: Michelle A. Travis, Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 4, 2010

From the abstract:
This Article considers the growing reliance that four-day work week advocates have placed on work/family claims. It begins by analyzing whether a compressed work schedule may alleviate work/family conflicts, and more importantly, for whom such benefits are most likely to accrue. While studies consistently find that many workers experience lower levels of work/family conflict when working a compressed schedule, the research also suggests that workers with the most acute work/family conflicts may be the least likely either to obtain or to benefit from a four-day work week design.

Nevertheless, the political climate surrounding the four-day work week provides a unique opportunity for action. This Article therefore considers how legal regulation might be used to shape four-day work week initiatives as a work/family balance tool. In particular, the Article considers how reflexive law proposals might contribute to the four-day work week debate. While existing reflexive law models typically rely on the creation and exercise of procedural rights vested in individual workers, this Article explores an under-developed alternative that would instead vest procedural rights primarily in workers as a group. The Article uses California’s extensive four-day work week regulations and the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act to illustrate this “collective reflexive” approach, and to explore what this type of regulatory model might offer advocates who are seeking to facilitate greater work/family balance for those who may need it the most.

How To Make Shift Work Family Friendly

Source: Jennifer Ludden, NPR, March 17, 2010

Work-life experts say cases like Underwood’s happen a lot because of the unpredictability so many low-wage and hourly workers face: schedules posted just days in advance, rotating schedules, unexpected overtime some days, while other days they can show up only to be told business is slow, they should go back home — without pay.

“I always say, there’s a lot of flexibility in those jobs, but it’s called quitting,” says Joan Williams, head of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California.
See also:
Part 1 – When Employers Make Room For Work-Life Balance
Part 2 – The End Of 9-To-5: When Work Time Is Anytime
NPR on work-life balance and shift work: Not bad, but what about unions?
Source: David Yamada, Minding the Workplace, March 17, 2010

Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility

Source: Council of Economic Advisers, March 2010

From a summary:
Focuses on the economics of flexible workplace policies. The first section highlights the need for such policies, including that (1) women comprise almost 50% of the workforce, and in nearly 50% of households, all adults are working; (2) nearly 20% of workers served as the primary caregiver to someone over 50 during 2008; and (3) there is an increased percentage of workers pursuing advanced education while working full time. The second section of the report details the flexibility that currently exists in the workplace. Specifically, more than 50% of employers indicate that they allow employees to change their start or stop times, even if only occasionally. However, workers with lower skills have less access to flexible workplace practices than do higher-skilled workers. Phased transitions have also become more popular, with most employers offering some sort of gradual return-to-work programs after major life events, such as adoptions or childbirth. Although flexible scheduling and phased transitions appear to be at least somewhat common, remote working (such as telecommuting) is much less common, with only about 15% of workers reporting that they work from home once a week. The final section of the report details some of economic benefits of workplace flexibility. For example, flexible workplace policies can improve worker health and productivity and reduce turnover and absenteeism. However, the costs and benefits of workplace flexibility differ across organizations and industries.
See also:
White House Announces Forum on Workplace Flexibility
Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Press release, March 23, 2010

The MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs – New Insights and Innovations for Reducing Health Care Costs for Employers

Source: Steven M. Albert, Richard Schulz, Alberto Colombi, MetLife, February 2010

From the summary:
Employees responsible for eldercare report more health problems than non-caregiving employees and cost U.S. employers an estimated $13 billion annually. Demographic trends indicate that a greater number of employees of all ages will assume the role of family caregiver for an increasingly older population. In combination, these trends mean that more employees will be dealing with eldercare issues. This brings to the forefront an urgent need for employers to actively address how to best facilitate the realities of employees dealing with eldercare responsibilities.

Key Findings

*The estimated average additional health cost to employers is 8% more for those with eldercare responsibilities.

*This differential in health care for caregiving employees is estimated, conservatively, as costing U.S. employers $13.4 billion per year.

*Employees providing eldercare were more likely to report fair or poor health, and are more likely to report depression, diabetes, hypertension, or pulmonary disease

The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict

Source: Joan C. Williams, Heather Boushey, Center for American Progress, January 25, 2010

From the summary:
Work-family conflict is much higher in the United States than elsewhere in the developed world. One reason is that Americans work longer hours than workers in most other developed countries, including Japan, where there is a word, karoshi, for “death by overwork.” The typical American middle-income family put in an average of 11 more hours a week in 2006 than it did in 1979.

Not only do American families work longer hours; they do so with fewer laws to support working families. Only the United States lacks paid maternity-leave laws among the 30 industrialized democracies in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The only family leave available to Americans is unpaid, limited to three months, and covers only about half the labor force. Discrimination against workers with family responsibilities, illegal throughout Europe, is forbidden only indirectly here. Americans also lack paid sick days, limits on mandatory overtime, the right to request work-time flexibility without retaliation, and proportional wages for part-time work. All exist elsewhere in the developed world.

So it should come as no surprise that Americans report sharply higher levels of work-family conflict than do citizens of other industrialized countries. Fully 90 percent of American mothers and 95 percent of American fathers report work-family conflict. And yet our public policymakers in Congress continue to sit on their hands when it comes to enacting laws to help Americans reconcile their family responsibilities with those at work.
See also:
Executive Summary
Related article:
With rising child-care cost, many parents are paying to work
Source: Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, January 26, 2010