Family Friendly Workplace

The Report of a
Council on the Status of Women Work Group

May 17, 2001

 

INTRODUCTION

The consensus of the work group (names given below) is that issues relevant to creation of a family-friendly workplace are not restricted to policies that make specific reference to employees' families. As a committee, our investigative lens opened to include additional factors that affect the overall quality of the workday. Topics that are included range from job-sharing to flex-time to benefits for dependent care. Each of these, among others, is explored in the report that follows. The key issue, in our opinion, is that human resources policy and practice must consistently support employees throughout the university in meeting their responsibilities to significant members of their households.

SALIENT ISSUES & PERTINENT POLICIES

1. Part-Time and Job-Sharing

Many employee responsibilities and preferences might lead to a need to work less than full-time. Members of the group were enthusiastic about the idea that two employees might complement each other in a job-sharing arrangement. None of us, however, was aware of an instance on campus where that option was in force.

Current Policy on Job-Sharing

There appear to be no policies that pertain to job-sharing. Given the animated discussions in our group, it is likely that the availability of a job-sharing option would be a very attractive benefit. If offered, it might very well help the university attract and retain satisfied, loyal employees.

2. Flexible Hours (Flex-Time)

Members of the group agreed that as life situations change, the starting and ending time of the workday may need to change. There were differing beliefs among members about how much flexibility is allowed and who is eligible for such arrangements. Our assumption is that the Council membership is representative of a cross-section of university employees. If we cannot achieve clarity among members of one of the work groups, it is likely that units on campus face similar quandaries.

Current Policy on Flexible Hours

One member of the group conducted a careful evaluation of the current NC State University Human Resources Policies and Procedures Manual. This search resulted in the discovery that a great deal of job flexibility is clearly allowable. Several examples were found, e.g., in the sections on Compensation (Work Schedule: Policy #622); Leave (Vacation Leave: Policy #701, Sick Leave: Policy #702, Family Medical Leave: Policy #706, Voluntary Shared Leave: Policy #711, Community Service Leave: Policy #712); and Employee Services (Wellness Program: Policy #804). In the sixth (August 17, 2000) revision of the manual, three and one-half pages are devoted to a section entitled Teleworking Program.

The purpose given for implementation of the latter policies is to permit agencies to designate . . . alternate work locations . . . to promote general work efficiencies. All fu1l-time or part-time (half-time or more) permanent or probationary employees are eligible.

Clearly, there is no conflict between flexible arrangements and personnel policy. Still, members have witnessed breakdowns in communication over requests for alternative arrangements. Something else, we feel, is operating to the detriment of opportunities for enjoying the full range of allowable options. We explore this to a limited degree in the RECOMMENDATIONS section.

3. Support for Dependent Care

This issue is in fact a combination of issues that include leave, flexible work schedules and administration of benefits packages. All members of the work group felt that employees with responsibility for dependents often experience a great deal of very awkward visibility as they negotiate arrangements for dependent care. Even when policies allow them to take leave, here may be tension around their doing so. We noted that general cultural attitudes change over time and have an impact on workplace tolerance of family leave. There is an incongruous national trend, for instance, that appears to find fault with "child-friendly" benefits, on the grounds that workers without dependents subsidize those who have them. We want to be sufficiently sensitive to the potential for abuse of benefits. However, our sense is that current practice does not give the smallest sign of being biased towards employees with dependents. In fact, our sense is that is quite the opposite.

Current Policy on Support for Dependent Care

The Council is aware of the extensive day care study that is being directed by Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Charlene Hayes. Members of the Council have met with Ms. Hayes and offered to support and supplement the study in any way that she thinks might be helpful. We have noted with approval that there will be no tight focus on the idea of building a childcare center. Instead, the question is how to support employees in meeting their childcare needs. We eagerly await the outcome of the study, which is expected in spring of 2002.

In the meantime, to make NC State a family friendly workplace, there is a critical need for more attention to several issues that cause stress for workers involved with dependent care: