New Employer & Workplace Study on Flexible Schedules

flextimeFamily Responsibility discrimination (FRD) and gender discrimination are the targets of many advocacy groups who work to promote family-friendly workplaces.  WorkLife Law, 9to5, and Families and Work Institute are just some of them. Families & Work Institute released a study on May 21, the 2008 National Study of Employers, which followed ten-year trends in U.S. workplace policies and benefits. The results were mixed.


Employer Study on Flextime & Alternative Work Schedules

The study revealed good news and bad news for employees seeking flexible working conditions. 79% of employers now allow at least some employees to periodically change their arrival and departure time, up 10% from 10 years ago.

But off-ramping, which allows employees to move from full- to part-time work and back again while remaining in the same position or level is down 10%.  In 1998, 57% employers reported that they permitted off-ramping. Today, only 47% answered this question affirmatively. This may well be attributable to a failing economy and employers looking to cut the bottom line.

Not surprisingly, the study found that the presence of women in senior positions correlated with a more flexible workplace. It makes sense that if the people in charge require flexible schedules, they might be more likely to provide them for their employees.

What, if anything, do these findings mean for employers? There is no law that requires employers to allow flexible work schedules.  (Well, not yet anyway. This may change if the above advocacy groups have any say about it!)   So why would you make these special accommodations, especially when it appears that their popularity is on the decline?

1.  Workplace Flexibility Increases Profits

The first and most important reason is increased profitability.  It makes good dollars and cents sense when you look at the economics related to the advancement and retention of women and minorities. It is an undeniable fact of the modern workplace: women are a significant part of your potential workforce. Particularly in professional fields, employers have spent lots of time and money training female employees.

Often, any costs involved in permitting flexible work arrangements are far outweighed by the cost of hiring and training someone else to do the job. Therefore, many employers have decided it’s well worth the investment to provide a flexible schedule in order to retain an employee for the long haul.

2.  Flex-Time Translates to Risk Avoidance

A second reason is the potential for litigation surrounding the flex-time issue. Right now there is nothing illegal or improper about denying flex-time if its denied across-the-board for male and female employees. However, many of the advocacy groups have threatened to file a disparate treatment case with regard to flex-time denial, arguing that it unfairly impacts female employees.

When the right case comes along with compelling facts, you can be assured that such a case will be filed and employers everywhere will start to jump on the flex-time bandwagon.

3.  Retention Linked to Flexible Work Schedules

Put yourself ahead of the pack and make your workplace an “employer of choice” by considering these flex-time schedules and off-ramping options now. These alternative work schedules are run-of-the-mill options among the companies ranked in the top 100 Places to Work.

Additional Resources:

Family Responsibility Discrimination (includes free summary of FRD)

Mommy Bias- Truth or Fiction?

Pregnancy Discrimination Claims on the Rise

Pregnancy Discrimination FAQ

Maternal Profiling

Testing Your Pregnancy Discrimination I.Q.