The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is backing a federal
workflex bill that would offer employees more flexibility when they take time
off while still providing predictability to employers. The bill (H.R. 4219) was
introduced to Congress in November of last year.
WHAT IT DOES
The proposed legislation creates a standard that would amend the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to create a qualified flexible work arrangement plan. To qualify, the plan would have to include two
components: a federal paid-leave standard and flexible work arrangements
for all employees. Employer participation would be voluntary.
Companies that opt to offer the ERISA-covered plan would enjoy
improved predictability by being able to follow a federal framework for paid
leave and workflex, as opposed to the complex, conflicting patchwork of
state and local laws.
HOW IT WORKS
The amount of leave to which each employee is entitled would be based on
organizational size and employee tenure. For example, a worker with fewer
than five years of service at a company with 250 to 999 employees would
have 14 days of leave, which would rise to 18 after he or she works there for
five or more years. That same employee would receive 13 days off to start at
a company with 50 to 249 employees, and 15 days after five years.
The employer would offer at least one of the following flexible work arrangements to each eligible employee:
Compressed work schedule.
Biweekly work program.
Full- and part-time employees.
WHY IT MATTERS
SHRM-BACKED BILL WOULD
EXPAND PAID LEAVE
A combined policy also means less
tracking for HR and obviates the need
some employees may feel to “prove”
when they’re sick, Francis says.
“We made the switch because our
people were not using their sick time
and were complaining about not hav-
ing enough time of,” says Kerry Wekelo,
managing director of HR at Actualize
Consulting in Reston, Va. “So we com-
bined to a total of four weeks’ paid time
of versus two weeks’ vacation and two
weeks’ sick time,” Wekelo says of her
50-employee company, which ofers
corporate fnancial consulting. “Our
people love this, and, even as we hire
new recruits, they rave about starting
at a frm with four weeks’ vacation.”
But a combined model doesn’t
work for everyone. It’s often unpopu-
lar among employees who have high
health care utilization needs and are
thus forced to use a disproportionate
share of their time of on their medical
needs. Try surveying employees to see
if the bundled option appeals to them,
Something else to consider: Under
many state laws, employers with a single PTO bank are required to treat accrued but unused balances as vacation
pay when workers’ employment ends,
says Marjory Robertson, assistant vice
president and senior counsel at Sun
Life Financial in Wellesley Hills, Mass.
“A potential beneft of keeping sick
days and vacation days separate is that,
in most states, employers are not required to pay out sick days upon termination of employment, as long as the
sick days policy is clear that no such
payment is owed,” Robertson says. This
is true even under paid-sick-leave laws,
she says, although companies may have
to restore the unused balance if the employee is rehired within a specifc time.
For that reason, some employers that
implement P TO banks opt to give employees fewer total days than they had
previously. “The reasoning behind this
is that, in most cases, 100 percent of
PTO is paid out at separation where sick
time is usually not, so the payof liability
for employers may be greater than with
a sick/vacation policy,” Francis says.
‘We’ve done a lot of work and research
on what makes an effective and flexible
workplace, and an individual’s work/life
fit is incredibly important. The bottom
line: If you have a healthier workforce,
they can be more productive.’
LISA HORN, DIREC TOR OF CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS AND
LEADER OF SHRM’S WORKPLACE FLEXIBILI T Y INITIATIVE