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Subcommittee Examines Trending Paid Leave and Flexible Work Policies

Today, the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), held a hearing on “Workplace Leave Policies: Opportunities and Challenges for Employers and Working Families.” 

At the outset of the hearing, Chairman Walberg articulated the timeliness of this hearing to examine the evolving topic of paid leave and flexible work policies.

“This century has a vastly different business landscape than the last,” said Chairman Walberg. “From the advent of the gig economy to the demand for telework and other work-life policies that address employees’ needs, ‘business as usual’ just doesn’t work for working families anymore. In response, many employers have implemented and continue to implement innovative paid leave policies.”

“[However], as employers continue to develop and deploy these leave policies, there has been a significant increase in new and oftentimes conflicting state and local paid leave mandates,” Chairman Walberg continued. “This growing patchwork of mandates across multiple jurisdictions creates a real administrative and implementation burden, particularly on small businesses, while also increasing compliance costs for employers.”

Members of the subcommittee heard from Angela Schaefer, the Vice President of Human Resources for Safety National in St. Louis, Missouri. In her testimony, Schaefer laid out how cutting-edge paid leave benefits and flexible work options are driving changes in workplace culture.

“HR professionals and their employers understand that paid leave and flexible work options are key to the overall job satisfaction of employees, especially as they compete for talent in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” Schaefer said.

She went on to stress the importance of preserving employer flexibility so that benefits offered can be tailored to best fit the needs of their employees.

Barbara Brickmeier, the Vice President for Human Resources and Business Development with IBM Corporation in Armonk, New York, echoed this sentiment and discussed the negative impact that overlapping state and local paid leave mandates have on businesses – especially those that do business across state lines.

“In the area of paid sick leave, by my last count, there were [eight] states, two counties and roughly 29 local ordinances covering paid sick leave. In addition, there is a federal Executive Order establishing paid sick leave for federal contractors,” said Brickmeier. “Instead of facilitating the formulation of paid leave policies, these inconsistencies and competing requirements actually discourage companies from voluntarily providing paid sick leave and/or paid family leave to their employees … As a result of the uncoordinated patchwork of requirements that exists today, IBM and similarly situated companies are left with no choice but to provide different paid sick time and family leave benefits based on where an employee works.”

The Independent Women’s Forum President, Carrie Lukas, urged subcommittee members to make economic growth the focus when looking at ways to ensure that workers have access to the best possible benefits.

“Policymakers' goal should be to help make it easier for workers to prepare for time away from work and for businesses to provide leave benefits, but without discouraging hiring and innovative work relationships,” Lukas concluded. “However, the best way to ensure that workers have the benefits they need is for there to be a growing economy, which offers plentiful job opportunities and rising compensation.”

Chairman Walberg closed by thanking the witnesses for their testimony, and reiterating that there are still questions to be answered in the policy area of paid time off.

“We have questions in this area and we have needs. Questions such as, can employers be trusted to make good paid time off decisions for both themselves and their employees? Or can we develop productive paid time off legislation that fosters good relations between employees and employers, while not violating our constitutional federalism in regards to the state and local primacy, and that is an important question to consider,” said Chairman Walberg.

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