Category:Flexible Work Time

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About the Flexible Work Time Initiative

This initiative, Measure Q on the November 2014 Berkeley ballot, called on the city of Berkeley to:

  • Pass a right-to-request law. According to this sort of law:
  • Employees can request shorter hours and other flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting or compressed schedules.
  • Employers can refuse by giving a business reason that the arrangement is not feasible. Refusals cannot be appealed.
  • Small businesses would be exempt.
  • Write letters to the federal and state governments asking them to pass right-to-request laws that cover all employees, with small businesses exempted.

This sort of right-to-request law has been successful in the United Kingdom, where employers grant the great majority of requests. More forceful laws have been successful in the Netherlands and Germany, where employers must accommodate these requests unless they can prove it will create operational problems

Right-to-request laws are now moving to the United States:

In 2007, this sort of law was introduced in Congress, and co-sponsors included then-senator from Illinois Barack Obama and then-senator from New York Hillary Clinton.

In 2013, Vermont and San Francisco passed this sort of law.

In June 2014, during the summit on families, President Obama issued an executive order applying this policy to Federal government employees.

Benefits of Flexible Work Time

A Cleaner Environment: If people choose to work less and consume less, they will pollute less (all else being equal).

If Americans worked as few hours as western Europeans, it would lower our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the reduction would become larger with time.

Stronger Families: Our standard 40-hour week dates back to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, when families were expected to have stay-at-home mothers. Today, 63% of American families with children have no stay-at-home parent, and 90% of those families say it is hard for them to balance work and family obligations. Today's parents need more flexibility than father needed 75 years ago.

More Well Paid Jobs: People in well paid jobs would be more likely to work shorter hours, because they can afford it, so employers would need more people to do this work.

In the Netherlands, they say that increased part-time work was the main cause of the "Dutch employment miracle," when unemployment fell from 13% in the mid-1980s to 6.7% in 1996, the lowest level in Western Europe at the time.

In the United States, if the federal government's civilian employees could choose their work hours, and if they chose to work as much as the average German employee, this change alone would create almost one-half million jobs, at a much lower cost than any other federal jobs program.

More Satisfying Lives: People would choose to work shorter hours only if they thought it would improve their lives. This is most important for caregivers, but it can also improve the quality of life of people who want to semi-retire or who just want more time for their own interests.

Despite all these benefits, 80% of American workers have no real choice of hours, according to economist Juliet Schor. Their only choice is a full-time job or a much lower paying part-time job.

Because of global warming and other ecological threats, many of us feel that we should consume less in order to protect the world's environment. Yet most people do not even have the option of downshifting economically by working shorter hours - choosing to have more free time instead of more stuff.

Do Not Burden Business

To avoid making flexible work time a burden on business, we recommend that flexible work time policies should:

Exempt Small Businesses: In most small businesses, the owner does all the hiring and firing. Dealing with employees who request rescheduling would be a hardship for these already-overworked business owners. Public hearings will give small businesses the opportunity to state their concerns, and the city should set a threshold that exampts small businesses that flexible work time would be a hardship for.

Pro-Rate Benefits: If part-time employees got the same benefits as full-time, it would raise labor costs. We recommend pro-rating benefits: for example, half-time employees would get half of the standard benefits from the employer, and the employee would pay for the rest. The employee could not cut hours as much, but pro-rating is useful to protect both employers and employees. Obamacare requires employers to provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours per week or more, and it would be best if employees who cut their hours to less than this still get pro-rated health benefits.

With these protections, this policy will help businesses. Corporate Voices for Working Families found that American businesses with more flexible work policies report improved employee satisfaction, morale, and teamwork, and better employee health, well-being, and resilience. Flexibility makes for more productive workers.

Full Employment and Full Enjoyment!

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More companies than ever before say that they're offering flexible hours or telecommuting to their workers. Still, San Francisco and the state of Vermont are trying a new approach to push businesses to do more: They're using the law.

Starting this year, employees in both places have the right to ask for a flexible or predictable work schedule, without fear of retaliation.

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“Right to Request ” — How Vermont and San Francisco are Leading the Way to Workplace Flexibility

Everyday many workers struggle to drop off their child at school and still make it to work on time. Others have to juggle the caregiving demands of being able to help a sick parent with her daily insulin injections, with inflexible work schedules. Sometimes workers can make it work—they manage their family and work responsibilities. However many times things don’t run so smoothly. Workers risk losing pay and even being fired if they have to leave work early or come late in order to address family issues. Or they risk less than ideal childcare and eldercare solutions when those work schedules are rigid. This leads to stress for workers, strain on families and decreased productivity for businesses. Now imagine if a worker could request a flexible schedule to better try to balance work and family demands.

Wider Opportunities for Women /

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Part-time worker issues

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May 2013

A new law (H.99) gives Vermont employees the right to request "a flexible work arrangement" for any reason and requires the employer to consider such a request "at least twice per calendar year."

A "flexible work arrangement" is defined as "intermediate or long-term changes in the employee's regular working arrangements, including changes in the number of days or hours worked, changes in the time the employee arrives at or departs from work, work from home, or job-sharing."

When given a request, the employer must discuss it in good faith with the employee, an interactive dialogue of sorts. The employer must grant the request if it is "not inconsistent with business operations or its legal or contractual obligations," a term somewhat akin to "undue hardship." The law list eight reasons a request might be "inconsistent with business operations." They include that the flexible schedule would result in additional costs or in an inability to reorganize work among existing staff, or have a detrimental effect on "aggregate employee morale," on the employer's ability to meet consumer demand, or on "business quality or business performance."

The law is part of an equal pay law, which amends the state's equal pay law and also gives employees the right to take unpaid leave to attend his or her town meeting if it would not conflict with "the essential operation" of the employer's business.


This category has the following 2 subcategories, out of 2 total.


Pages in category "Flexible Work Time"

The following 3 pages are in this category, out of 3 total.