Although 1 Million for Work Flexibility does not endorse or lobby for any specific legislation, we’re eager to expand awareness around flexibility statutes and proposals both at a local level and worldwide.

We’re a national movement, and our focus is on expanding access to work flexibility for workers across the United States.  But as we seek to make change, it’s helpful to understand where the U.S. fits on this issue within the international landscape.

International Legislation Relating to Work Flexibility

A 2007 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Statutory Routes to Workplace Flexibility in Cross-National Perspective, provides an extensive look at the state of flexibility statutes across 20 high-income countries.

Of these, “17 have statutes to help parents adjust working hours, 6 help with family caregiving responsibilities for adults; 12 allow change in hours to facilitate lifelong learning; 11 support gradual retirement; and 5 countries have statutory arrangements open to all employees, irrespective of the reason for seeking different work arrangements.”

For example, parents in Norway have the option of working 50, 60, 75, 80, or 90 percent of their typical hours for up to two years after birth or adoption. Parents in Portugal may reduce their work hours for up to two years until their child is 12 years old, or for longer if they have more than two children or a child with a disability.

In New Zealand, a worker providing care for anyone else (family member or no) has the right to request flexible work arrangements.

In Spain, workers have the right to adjust working hours for training or education purposes.

In Finland, at 58 years of age employees can request a reduction of between 30 and 70 percent of their usual hours on a partial pension program.

In France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Finland, employees have the right to request reduced hours for any reason.

In all cases, employers have the right to refuse requests for flexibility on business grounds, and small employers are exempted from the laws in some countries.

For more details, consider the following table:

Overview of statutes enabling alternative work arrangements (AWAs), 2007, reprinted with permission from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Overview of statutes enabling alternative work arrangements (AWAs), 2007, reprinted with permission from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

At least two of the countries included in the report have since expanded their flex laws. Since 1996, caregivers and parents in the United Kingdom have had the right to request a flexible schedule, but as of June 30, 2014, that right has been extended to all workers, regardless of their reason for the request.  In Australia, the Fair Work Act of 2009 gives employees the right to request flexible work arrangements if they are parents of school-age children, if they are carers, if they have a disability, if they are dealing with domestic violence, or if they are 55 or older.

Legislation on Work Flexibility in the United States

When the IWPR report was compiled in 2007, there was no flex legislation anywhere in the U.S.; however, momentum has been building since then.

Passed

  • San Francisco, CA. Passed by the Board of Supervisors under Board President David Chiu, the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance of San Francisco went into effect on January 1, 2014. Employees in San Francisco (at companies of 20 or more) now have the right to request a flexible or predictable work arrangement to assist with caregiving responsibilities. Employers must respond within three weeks of the request.
  • Vermont.  As of January 1, 2014, under a new “equal pay” law, all Vermont employees have the right to request a flexible work arrangement for any reason. Employers must grant the request unless it is “inconsistent with business operations or its legal or contractual obligations”.
  • Federal Government. President Obama signed into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 which requires all federal agencies to establish telework policies for federal employees.

Proposed

  • National.
    • The Flexibility for Working Families Act was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney in June 2013, with the intention of giving employees nationwide the right to request work flexibility and ensuring employers consider such requests. Not to be confused with the Working Families Flexibility Act which promotes flexibility by trading it for overtime pay (flexibility should not come at such a cost).
    • The Schedules That Work Act was introduced in July of this year, with the intention of giving workers the right to request a flexible, predictable, or stable schedule, without fear of retaliation. The bill is pending review by a congressional committee.
  • San Francisco, CA. The Retail Workers Bill of Rights, currently being sponsored by Board Supervisor Eric Mar,  promotes predictable schedules for hourly workers at San Francisco’s retail stores, restaurants, and banks, as well as fair treatment for part-timers.
  • Berkeley, CA. In November 2014, the Flexible Work Time Initiative will be part of the Berkeley ballot.
  • New York, NY. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer is promoting right to request legislation for New York City and beyond.

Keep an eye on our blog for continued updates on progress both nationally and internationally on this issue. And please let us know in the comments section below if you’re aware of items we’ve missed!

photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com