Helping Families Find Balance Between Family and Work

Dress the kids, dress yourself, get out the door, attend meetings, school functions, make dinner… if you’re a working parent, you know how tough it is to balance work and family.  As summer approaches, that balance can get even trickier with vacations, summer camps and other activities for our children.  And in addition to taking care of our children, many working parents must also care for their aging relatives. 

But federal laws prevent private sector employers from providing working parents the type of workplace flexibility that could allow families more time to care for an elderly relative or meet the needs of their kids.
Unfortunately, current law prevents working families in the private sector the options given to government employees.

The Family-Friendly Workplace Act will give families the freedom to make choices that work best for them as well as meet the needs of our 21st century workforce.

Employees in the public sector, state and local government for example, have long been able to choose paid time off, known as “comp time,” as compensation for working overtime. Under a traditional overtime arrangement, workers receive time-and-a-half pay for any hours worked above 40 per week.  Under The Family-Friendly Workplace Act, workers could opt for paid time off, at the same time-and-a-half rate, for those overtime hours.

For instance, an employee who clocks 50 hours during the week – 10 hours beyond the 40 hour workweek – could simply be paid for the extra time, equaling pay for 15 hours. Or, if given the choice of comp time, that same employee would have 15 hours available in the future to see her child’s school play or attend a parent-teacher conference or care for a sick relative.

For many families juggling demands of work and home, the ability to take time off is far more valuable than the pay they would receive for working overtime.

The dynamic of the American workforce will continue changing dramatically the next few generations, as one worker enters the job market for every two that leave.  Business is looking at non-monetary benefits to recruit and retain highly-skilled workers.  The Family-Friendly Workplace Act is one tool businesses can use to recruit the desired workforce and remain competitive in today’s global economy.

Spokane-area businesses and their employees like Telect, KidCentric, Farm Services Credit Union, Provisional Staffing and Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS) already benefit from flexible workplace options. 

Of course, that’s a choice for each workplace.  And federal law should never require any individual to choose time off instead of additional pay. But by the same token, federal law should not deny employees the ability to make the choice that best meets their needs.

Giving employers more flexibility in their workplace is key to increasing retention as well as attracting great employees that will help increase our country’s competitiveness.  That flexibility is also key to helping keep our families and communities strong.  In honor of all the mothers like us back at work while still enjoying the cards, flowers, and precious memories of Mother’s Day, Congress should give working families the flexibility they need to balance work and home.

–By Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Amy Johnson, Vice President of Workforce and Education for Greater Spokane Incorporated

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