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November 8 2017

Women in Congress Have an Answer to Paid Leave

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

How can we increase access to paid leave benefits and flexibility in the workplace for workers while not burdening employers with added costs or unnecessary requirements?

Representative Mimi Walters of California introduced legislation to tackle this problem. Her timing is important. As states introduce and implement new one-size-fits-all paid leave mandates, it’s workers who end up losing flexibility and benefits that meet their unique needs.

The Workflex in the 21st Century Act, created with the help of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), would guarantee full-time and part-time workers a minimum level of paid leave (depending on the size of the employer and the employee's tenure). It also allows employers to offer different types of flexible working options such as telework, biweekly schedules, compressed work schedules, and job-sharing.

For example, a young woman is planning to have another baby, but wants to return to her job on a part-time basis shortly afterward. If her employer offers workflexible arrangements, she could use her paid leave and then begin a biweekly schedule to ease back into her work duties. Another employee could just use his paid leave time to chaperone his son’s first field trip.

These workers want flexibility and they are not alone. Some 85 percent of employees say flexible work arrangements are extremely or very important to them, especially Millennials.

Paid leave mandates that have emerged in California, Washington, D.C., and other states lack this flexibility. They force all employers to provide the same benefits to all workers – regardless of whether they need or want that type of benefit.

Rep. Walters explains why this bill is a better way forward:

“As our personal and professional responsibilities continue to grow, hard-working Americans should have access to scheduling options that will provide better options to help them meet their work and family needs,” Walters said.

“Workflex will allow employees the opportunity to spend more time with their families and in their communities, without increasing taxes or creating new mandates," she continued. "This innovative legislation will provide the flexibility employees need.”

For employers with employees or contractors in multiple states, one of the big benefits is that they wouldn’t have to navigate state-by-state compliance with paid leave programs.

As taxpayers, we wouldn’t be on the hook to fund paid leave programs, which is unfair if you don't use them. Employers pay for this as part of the benefits they already provide to their workers.

The Independent Women’s Voice, our sister organization, expressed support for this measure.

We’ll track how this effort moves through Congress and, hopefully, it becomes an alternative to mandated leave plans.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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