U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act today, which would allow flexible workplace arrangements such as compensatory time and flexible credit hour agreements to be extended to businesses with hourly workers. Senator McConnell's bill is cosponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employers from offering compensatory time, or "comp time," to their hourly employees. By contrast, federal employees are eligible to receive comp time and flexible credit hour agreements.
"The Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act will help provide America's workers with the flexible work arrangements they need. Countless Americans have become increasingly familiar over the past several years with the same reality: more and more to do, with less and less time to do it. And while Congress can't legislate another hour in the day, we can help working Americans better balance the demands of work and family," Senator McConnell said. "My legislation is a commonsense measure Congress can take to help alleviate that burden for millions of families by providing greater flexibility in managing their time."
"This legislation extends the same options currently available to those in the public sector to working families in the private sector," Senator Ayotte said. "Comp time/flex time would enable employees and employers to choose to enter into a voluntary agreement that would allow greater flexibility for workers who are looking to better balance work-life demands."
The bill would amend the FLSA to allow private employers to offer comp time to employees at a rate of one-and-one-half hours for every hour of overtime work. A completely voluntary process, an employee can still choose to receive monetary payments as their overtime compensation. This bill simply allows the option for employees to choose paid time off for overtime work instead.
This bill also institutes a flexible credit-hour program, under which the employer and employee can enter into agreements that allow the employee to work excess hours beyond the typical number of hours he or she is typically required to work in order to accrue hours to be taken off at a later time. This option is for employees who do not get the opportunity to work overtime, but still want a way to build up hours to use as paid leave.
Like comp time, this program is voluntary and may not affect collective bargaining agreements that are in place. Under this legislation, employers would not be mandated to offer the flexible workplace arrangements, just as employees are not mandated to choose these benefits rather than direct compensation for overtime work.
"We all know working moms who are stretched between a job and supporting her kids. And Baby Boomers with elderly parents who require care and attention. A large number of hourly workers employed by private employers are forced to make tough choices when trying to balance work and family. So it's not surprising that study after study has found that many Americans are calling for greater workplace flexibility," Senator McConnell said.
A 2010 study conducted by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, for example, found that work flexibility programs can "reduce turnover and improve recruitment, [increase] the productivity of an employer's workforce, and are associated with improved employee health and decreased absenteeism."
Another study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Managers found that women's responsibilities have increased at work and men's responsibilities have increased at home, resulting in 60 percent of wage and salaried employees feeling they don't have enough time to spend with their loved ones.
The McConnell bill is supported by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. David Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber, said "the Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act would allow private employers to give employees the flexibility they want by permitting them to offer paid time as overtime compensation for non-exempt hourly employees. Our members throughout the Commonwealth would find value in being able to provide this benefit to their employees. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce strongly supports this legislation and we appreciate Senator McConnell's leadership on this issue."
The effort to provide greater flexibility and support for families in the workplace is one Senator McConnell has long supported. He previously supported legislation allowing flexible workplace arrangements. This is the fifth time Senator McConnell has sponsored legislation to establish comp time.
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives. It was passed earlier this year.