In Focus: Employees and Responsive Workplaces

Jun 19, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

D.C. Workers Have Too Few Hours, Too Little Notice

By Liz Ben-Ishai

In a town where highflying lobbyists, Capitol Hill power brokers, and political campaign aficionados are known to work long, arduous hours, a “West Wing” fantasy can distract people from poverty and inequality. According to a new study, workers in Washington, D.C. often receive their schedules with just a few days’ notice. They also struggle to get enough hours to make ends meet and are expected to make themselves available at all hours of the day despite rarely receiving work.

The study, released last week by DC Jobs With Justice, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative, highlights a set of scheduling challenges with which workers are contending nationwide. The groups’ survey found that 80 percent of respondents wanted more hours; in the absences of sufficient hours and pay, nearly a quarter of workers in the study were working multiple jobs.

A national study of early-career workers ages 26 to 32, released last year, found that nearly 40 percent were receiving one week or less notice of their job schedules. The D.C. study takes this question to a finer gradation. It finds that nearly half of surveyed workers in D.C. receive less than one week’s notice and one-third receive less than three days’ notice. Among retail and restaurant workers, nearly one-third receive less than 24 hours’ notice of schedule changes. Workers with families to care for, classes to attend, second jobs, or other obligations cannot sustain these fly-by-night scheduling practices.

The movement for fair, sustainable job schedules is gaining momentum across the country. Over the past year, public concern around unfair job scheduling practices has led about 10 states to introduce legislation to expand workers’ rights. The federal Schedules that Work Act, first introduced last year, is likely to be re-introduced in the coming months. And last year, a coalition of worker’s rights groups in San Francisco, led by Jobs With Justice, helped pass the nation’s first “Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights,” which includes advance notice of schedules, compensation for last-minute schedule changes, and access to hours for part-time employees.

The new D.C. survey shows that action is needed in the District, too. Some employers, such as child care center owner Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn, are doing the right thing. “Having happy employees is critical for the success of our business,” St. Hilaire-Finn said. “Fair and flexible scheduling is one way we accomplish this.” She provides at least two weeks’ notice to her employees and accommodates staff requests for flexibility.

Unfortunately, too many employers are ignoring the business case for fair scheduling. That’s why public policies to create minimum standards for workers’ schedules are needed. Employers like St. Hilarie-Finn and others agree that policy solutions are needed to extend the benefits they already extend to all workers.

In the coming months, we expect the momentum to continue on this critical job quality issue—here in the District and all across the country.

Read the report >>

Visit CLASP’s National Repository of Resources on Job Scheduling Policy >>

Apr 15, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

One year later, the results of Jersey City’s Earned Sick Days law are promising

By Felicia J. Onuma

One year after Jersey City’s earned sick days ordinance took effect, the verdict is in: workers and business are both winning big. Contrary to opponents’ predictions, a new study shows that more than one-third of employers have experienced higher employee productivity, made better-quality hires, and had less employee turnover since implementing the law. Earned Sick Days in Jersey City: A Study of Employers and Employees at Year One, published by Rutgers’ Center for Women and Work, echoes the findings of numerous other reports on the effects of earned sick days laws on employers.

In September 2013, Jersey City became the first jurisdiction in New Jersey to adopt an earned sick days ordinance. The law, which took effect in January 2014, enables workers in businesses with 10 or more employees to earn up to 5 paid sick days each year. Workers in businesses with 9 or fewer employees can earn up to five unpaid sick days.

For most Jersey City businesses, compliance with the law has not been detrimental. Most employers have observed little change in employee behavior. Moreover, many have noted significant benefits. More than 92 percent of employers reported no change in the use of paid sick days following implementation of the law; another 4 percent reported that their employees were taking fewer sick days. More than one-third of employers reported more productivity, less turnover, and improved quality of new hires.

As expected, Jersey City’s law is also helping workers. More than half of Jersey City employees reported earning at least one sick day since the law took effect. The percentage is even higher (60 percent) among workers who have been with the same employer for more than a year. Furthermore, nearly 72 percent of employees who had more sick days due to the law reported higher job satisfaction. 

Jersey City’s experience is not unique. In other jurisdictions with sick leave laws, the majority of employers are complying with standards and reaping their benefits. In San Francisco and  Connecticut, 82 percent and 93 percent of employers, respectively, provide paid sick time to their employees as required by law. Further, the majority of San Francisco and Connecticut employers, as well as those in Seattle, reported no change in costs, profitability, customer service, or employee morale due to earned sick days standards.

New Jersey municipalities are leading the charge on sick days nationwide. Across the state, Jersey City and seven other cities (Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Patterson, Irvington, Trenton, and Montclair), have implemented earned sick days laws. This report on Jersey City’s experience offers encouragement and insight to other jurisdictions as they work to implement their own laws.

Apr 1, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

More State and Local Governments Now Offer Paid Family Leave

By Felicia Onuma

Today, the United States is the only developed nation that does not guarantee workers paid maternity leave. It also trails most other countries in offering paid paternity, family, medical, and sick leave. Because each parent works in most families with children, the lack of a nationwide paid family leave law makes it difficult to balance jobs and parenting. In the absence of federal action, some state and local governments have taken the lead by offering paid family or parental leave to their public employees.

Without paid family leave, many Americans are forced to cobble together unused sick, personal, or vacation days to care for a new child.  In most cases, this makeshift leave is far less than they need. For other workers, the situation even is worse. Nearly half of all workers in the lowest 25 percent of wage earners have no paid time off (personal, sick, family, or vacation leave). Certain employees who meet tenure requirements at companies with 50 or more workers are able to access unpaid, job-protected leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This leave can be used to recover from child birth, bond with a new child, care for a sick family member, or address personal health problems. But 40 percent of workers are not covered by FMLA, and many who are can’t afford to take unpaid leave.

State and city governments employ over 19 million people. Contrary to political rhetoric, many state and city employees receive less compensation (including pay and benefits) than their private-sector counterparts. For these workers, access to paid leave is critical to family economic security. Fortunately, a growing number of states and cities are stepping up to provide this important benefit.

Allegheny County, PA and Seattle, WA are the most recent jurisdictions to institute paid leave policies for public employees. According to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, implementing this policy “is the right thing to do for our employees, for their children, and for our county.” He noted: “We benefit as a community when employees succeed at work and at home.” In an op-ed, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Jean Godden declared: “It is time for our country to recognize the importance of this issue and respond with appropriate policies that support our workers and their families.” Murray and Godden further explain how paid leave benefits workplace gender equity, child development, and business.

Allegheny County will provide six weeks of paid parental leave for full-time employees who have worked for the county for at least a year, while Seattle will offer its employees four weeks of paid parental leave.

Heidi Goldberg, program director for early childhood and family economic success at the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, observes that “cities such as Seattle that are establishing paid parental leave for city employees are modeling strong policies that are good for both business and for communities. Ensuring that parents can care for their children without losing their jobs does a great deal to equalize the playing field for low-income families while boosting a city’s overall economic health through increased job stability.”

Other cities and counties offering paid family leave to government workers include San Francisco, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; St. Paul, MN; Brooklyn Park, MN; St. Petersburg, FL; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX and King County, WA. Six states have also enacted paid family leave policies: California, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

Resources on state and local government employee paid leave policies and other paid leave policy developments are available here:

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