By Cheryl Blake
In determining how any size employer accommodates families, a good place to begin is Feminists for Life’s Family-Friendly Workplace Evaluation, from “Raising Expectations in the Workplace.” This tool helps to identify what policies, resources, employer and community support, and communications strategies employees and employers can use to work together. Among the issues covered in Feminists for Life’s survey are flexibility in work situations, accessibility for parents, health, safety, and family leave.
Does the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act apply to mid-sized companies?
If the company has at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius, then the FMLA applies. Also, public agencies and public or private schools, even with fewer than 50 employees, must comply with FMLA. Workers must have a 12-month tenure with the employer to be eligible for the time off.
What family-friendly approaches do mid-sized employers offer?
Many private businesses support some working from home to not only keep their employees satisfied but also as a strategy that makes more prospective workers interested in their companies. About two thirds of U.S. state agencies surveyed list improved morale as the big benefit to flexible schedules. There is also the health benefit of decreased stress among employees attempting to find balance in their work and family lives. Both fewer doctor visits and better sleep have been attributed to workers’ feelings of increased autonomy.
Several empirical studies have correlated flexible work arrangements with increased productivity. In retail situations, for instance, employees with more control over their schedules report more satisfaction with their jobs. Their managers see that satisfaction translated into better interaction with customers.
Besides flexible scheduling, as much as 12 weeks of unpaid leave may be available in a year for such situations as the birth or adoption of a child or the illness of the employee or of one of his or her family members. A worker now has more choices when caring for family without fearing loss of a job. Some workers are able to opt for intermittent leave to not only allow for recuperation and bonding after the birth of a child, for instance, but also for major events like training a new nanny or planned surgeries for the child.
What about health insurance for dependents?
When a workplace already extends coverage to dependents, the cost and amount of coverage should make health care reasonable for parents. Prioritizing better insurance when negotiating for family-friendly benefits makes sense. For more information about insurance and health care, see the health care page.
Are there other perks a mid-sized business might offer parents?
All or some of the parental leave may be paid. More employees also increase the demand for not only flexible scheduling and telecommuting, but also for lactation rooms and on-site day care. When child care is available on site, other family-friendly policies are feasible. In a 2013 report by Human Capital Institute, about 40 percent or more human resource professionals reported that family-friendly policies reduced absenteeism, turnover, and employee stress in their organizations. So even mid-sized businesses can see the benefit.
By Cheryl Blake