A Mother's Day Gift from Congress

Posted: May 12, 2008 5:15 PM
A Mother's Day Gift from Congress

For working families, it seems there are never enough hours in the day. Since becoming a new mother, finding that balance between work and family life depends upon the day. After celebrating my second Mother’s Day as a mom, I can tell you it has given me a deeper understanding on some issues that come before me in Congress.

One of those issues is the federal laws that prevent most working parents from securing the type of workplace flexibility that could provide families with more time to care for an elderly parent or meet the needs of their kids.

Unfortunately, current law today prevents working families in the private sector from having the same flexibility given to government workers.

That’s why I introduced The Family-Friendly Workplace Act, which 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, are often able to choose extra 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, a worker 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 worker 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 the demands of work and home, time is much more valuable than the pay they would receive for working overtime. Consider:

• Revenues for Seattle-based insurer NRG::Seattle saw per-employee revenues increase 70% five years after implementing flexible work options

• The Puget Sound Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology saw grant revenues increase 25% over three years after creating a flexible workplace

• Earnings per share more than doubled, customers satisfaction increased 50% and customer retention rates reached 95% within three years after First Tennessee Bank implemented flexible workplace options

Of course, that’s a choice for each family. 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 employees more flexibility in their workweek 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 me 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.