Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu...the case for sick days

Mandated time-off is one aspect of family friendly work that has very little government support. As noted many times, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the only provision for U.S. workers to be able to take time off without threatening their job security. And the FMLA has serious limitations as it only applies to companies with more than 50 employees, and the time-off provided is unpaid.

Time-off allowances would help those trying to raise a family significantly. Many who have family friendly work arrangements note that their ability to take time off helps them create harmony in their life. However, it is time to understand the public interest in allowing employees to take time off when needed.

I suspect that we will see the Swine Flu spreading more quickly in the U.S. as we don't have federally mandated time-off provisions. Many workers with the flu will report to work and share the flu with their co-workers. Why would they do such a thing? Because if they don't, they may lose their job. Or, at least they will often lose a day's wages which might make the difference on paying the rent this month. Many children with the flu will likely go to school because their parents must go to work and do not have another alternative.

I would hope that companies would see the benefit of offering paid time-off benefits to employees. But, when times are tight, companies cut back where they can and paid time-off is not required. If it were required of every employer, then one company would not be able to have a financial advantage over another by not providing time-off benefits.

The argument against providing paid time-off is that it would put many small businesses under to provide such a benefit. However, I see it as a cost to doing business. Further, by allowing your workers paid time-off, you can prevent them from coming to work when they are sick. If you can recover from an illness properly, you can be more productive at work. You will also prevent other workers from getting sick.

A few websites with some further discussion on the topic:
Center for American Progress

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How schools work against working parents

My husband and I moved to our current home, in part, because of the reputation of the local school district. Our community boasts a highly rated public school system that attracted us to buy a home and pay outrageous property taxes. What we didn't consider, however, was the school's attractiveness to a working parent.

While the community does have some after-school child care programs available, none are on site at the schools. I've heard from parents in other school districts about wonderful programs right in their child's school that provide structured activities, at a very reasonable cost and with much flexibility.

To make things worse, our district has just announced some decisions targeted at reducing costs. One such change involves student bussing to babysitters or day care centers. Since the school does not provide after-school care, many parents rely upon the bus to transport their child from the school to a babysitters home (often another parent in the school district) or to a day care center (all within the school district). Starting next year, our district will no longer bus a child to any location except their own home. The district states that this change will allow them to better 'maximize efficiency.'

It seems to me that this is just another decision that makes life more difficult for working parents. While after much thought I can see that they might be able to save a little bit of money, the headaches they are causing working parents are well beyond the small cost savings this provides. The district is looking to pass a new levy next year and my best guess is that this is an effort to make life so painful for some residents that they will pull out full support for the levy.

This is yet another example of evidence that while we have made some progress in the workplace, in general our communities are not friendly to working parents. I've been told by friends about PTA's that only meet during the day, teachers who are only available to meet with parents during school hours, and other signs of lack of flexibility to meet the needs of working parents.

While some communities have made great progress in providing support for working parents, it seems that some communities still count on a majority of parents (mostly moms) to stay at home in order to manage daily life.