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Even as Number of Households with Single Parents or Both Parents Working Outside the Home Has Increased Laws Haven’t Kept Pace / New Legislation- Flexibility for Working Families Act- Would Prove a Boon for Working Families and Businesses

Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) introduced new legislation, the Flexibility for Working Families Act, that would ensure that workers have the right to request a flexible work arrangement without fear of retribution. Even as the number of households with single parents or both parents working outside the home has increased laws haven’t kept pace with the new realities. The bill provides employers with flexibility by encouraging them to review these requests, propose changes, and even deny them if they are not considered in the best interest of their business.

“Flexible work arrangements help businesses retain great employees and help workers remain in the workforce while meeting their obligations to their families,” Senator Casey said. “This is commonsense legislation that brings our workplace laws into the 21st century. No employee should fear retribution for simply asking for a flexible work arrangement.”

“We need workplace policies that reflect the reality of a 21st century economy—where both parents are working and overtime is expected,” said Maloney. “The line between work and personal time has become badly blurred, and flexible work arrangements are needed now more than ever. You shouldn’t have to fear getting fired just to request a schedule that is workable in terms of daycare arrangements, regular medical appointments, or life’s other obligations. That’s why Senator Casey and I are working to pass the Flexibility for Working Families Act.”

Flexibility for Working Families Act

Our Nation’s workforce has undergone a significant demographic shift over the last 50 years.  The modern workforce includes a broad and diverse cross section of Americans:

  • An increasing number of women have joined the workforce.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 1960 women composed 33 percent of employed persons, whereas in 2010 they were 47 percent of those employed.
  • The number of households with at least one parent at home has fallen.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of married households with children where both parents were in the labor force rose to 66 percent in 2010. The number of single parent families has also increased, almost tripling over the last fifty years, from 5 percent in 1960, to 14 percent in 2010.
  • More workers are caring for older relatives or individuals with special needs.  The National Alliance for Caregiving found that 57 percent of those who provide unpaid care to an adult or to a child with special needs are also employed.
  • Workers often must commute to jobs located outside of city-centers.  Low-wage workers in particular have difficulty reaching jobs through public transportation during off-peak shifts, such as evenings or early mornings.

Many companies have responded to the challenges of the modern workforce by instituting flexible work arrangements—voluntary arrangements between employees and employers that alter the time, amount, and/or place that work is conducted.

The Flexibility for Working Families Act would guarantee workers the right to request these arrangements.  Workers could request temporary or permanent changes to

  • The number of hours the employee is required to work.
  • The times when the employee is required to work or be on notice.
  • Where the employee is required to work.
  • Notifications of schedule assignments.

It also provides employers with flexibility by encouraging them to review these requests, propose changes and even deny them if they are not in the best interest of the business.

Positive results for employees and employers

A study by Corporate Voices for Working Families that examined a number of U.S. companies that have instituted flexible work arrangements found that these arrangements:

  • Improve employee satisfaction, morale, health, and well-being
  • Increase employee retention and reduce turnover
  • Reduce overtime and absenteeism
  • Increase productivity

Similar “right to request” laws have successfully increased productivity, attendance and overall job satisfaction in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand.