Category Archives: Family & Work

New Approaches to Organizing Women and Young Workers – Social Media and Work Family Issues

Source: Netsy Firestein, Deborah King,Katie Quan, Labor Project for Working Families, Cornell ILR Labor Programs and UC Berkeley Labor Center, July 2010

From a Berger-Marks summary:
How useful are online media and work-family issues in organizing? To find out, a Berger-Marks grant helped researchers interview 23 organizers about how they use new media and whether they highlight family and work issues in their campaigns.

The study confirmed that “some of the most exciting and innovative strategies and tools are being developed by young organizers using new technology and social media.”

They are using Internet websites to provide information; Facebook and MySpace to help workers connect and express opinions; and Twitter and texts to remind workers to take action. Nonetheless, those same organizers caution that new technology and social media are no substitute for personal contact, and that unions need to make sure they protect workers’ security and privacy.

The study concludes that “Organizers are using new technology and social media successfully. The immediate challenge for unions will be how to provide organizers with these tools, the skills to use them and the budget to maintain them.” It recommends giving frontline organizers technical support and the authority to respond rapidly.

It also calls for “a new union culture that is attractive to young workers” and helps them take on leadership.

Promising antipoverty strategies for families

Source: Maria Cancian, Daniel R. Meyer, and Deborah Reed, Institute for Research on Poverty University of Wisconsin- Madison, Fast Focus No. 6, August 2010

American families are becoming increasingly diverse, dynamic, and dependent on labor market earnings to avoid poverty and economic distress. Children are less likely to live in families with both parents and more likely to rely on their mother’s earnings to avoid poverty. The recession has highlighted the urgent need for antipoverty programs supporting families, but the authors emphasize that the needs the programs address are longstanding, not only cyclical, and therefore require a sustained response.

In this brief, the authors review changes in family structure, the relationship between family structure and employment, and early evidence on differential impacts of the recession on families, and they explore the implications of these changes for policy. They argue that supporting resident parents’ efforts to balance work and family responsibilities and supporting and enforcing nonresident parents’ contributions to their children will help reduce poverty and economic difficulties.

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