State, Local Policies Make Important Steps Forward for Workplace Flexibility

Jun 25, 2013

By Liz Ben-Ishai

As working caregivers across the country increasingly find themselves at wits end trying to meet work deadlines, arrange childcare, get dinner on the table, and take elderly relatives to medical appointments, important developments in the movement to make workplaces more family-friendly are finally gaining political traction.

Last month, the state of Vermont passed the country’s first law that includes a provision giving workers the “right to request” a flexible work schedule.  And on the heels of Vermont’s exciting victory, earlier this month, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced a proposed ballot measure for rules that would give workers who are caregivers a “right to request” flex work. Such laws allow employees to file requests with their employers to telecommute, job share, work part time, or adjust their schedules – all options that can greatly reduce the burden parents and other caregivers face when trying to meet the demands of their jobs and care for their families.

The Vermont law – and San Francisco’s, if it makes it on the ballot and voters embrace it –  follows in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, which have already instituted right to request policies. (Other developed nations have more expansive provisions that give workers the right to schedule changes not just the right to ask for them.) Under the U.K. and New Zealand laws, employers can refuse the request if approving it would lead to undue hardship for the business. Vermont’s law enables workers to make the request and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees that make the request; San Francisco’s motion for a ballot measure uses similar language.


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