We all know that workplace flexibility, family-friendly policies, and paid leave are at the forefront of many company and legislative discussions. Numerous articles condemn the lack of family-friendly policies in the US, see here and here. As a reaction, many states have, or are in the process of, passing local legislation requiring various levels of leave. Many cities, such as San Francisco, are also passing legislation on leave. This is putting many US companies in the situation of having to possibly respond to a patchwork of laws resulting that may result in compliance problems or at least inconsistent policies.
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), has helped develop, and is promoting, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act. In this post, and in several subsequent posts over the coming weeks, I will try to explain the act for you and let you decide if its something you want to support.
Currently, in the US there is only one piece of Federal level legislation that covers leave, that is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and it applies to employers who have 50 or more employees. An Obama era Executive Order requires federal contractors to provide paid sick leave. The Workflex Act would be on the federal level, but it does NOT require compliance. It is an OPT-IN program that provides benefits to the employers and employees who do opt-in.
Here is a summary of the legislation. In ensuing blog posts over the next month, I will provide more detail on the various components.
- It is a voluntary, opt-in program. Employers could offer an ERISA-qualified plan that includes a federal standard of paid time off and options for flexible work arrangments.
- This plan would pre-empt state and local paid sick leave laws.
- Employees of employers participating in the program would receive more paid leave than is currently required by either state or local mandates.
- Workers are guaranteed flexible workplace options them may not have current access to, the first such arrangement.
- Employers have a model to follow, providing more predictability in use of the program.
- It is complementary to current unpaid programs.
- It reduces compliance issues by eliminating the patchwork of state and local laws that many employers much currently comply with.
Not yet passed
This is legislation that SHRM is trying to usher through the legislative process. The bill’s key sponsor in the House of Representatives is Rep. Mimi Walters, [R-CA-45]. Additionally, it has an additional four sponsors from New York, Washington, Michigan, and Alabama. SHRM is helping find a Senate sponsor to introduce this legislation in the Senate.
SHRM’s leadership is heavily behind this bill, so you will hear a lot about it at SHRM18 in Chicago. Stay tuned for next week when I cover a component of the bill.
I wish to thank Lisa Horn, SHRM’s Director of Congressional Affairs and Leader of SHRM’s Workplace Flexibility Initiative, for providing this information and answering my questions.