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Overtime Laws Should Give Employees More Flexibility

March 13, 2003
Related Topics: Wages and Hours, Featured Article
Time is money, the old saying goes. But for people trying to findthe right balance between work and family, time is sometimes even more preciousthan money.

    Sixty-one percent of adults say they would give up some of their pay for alittle more time with their family. Seventy-percent of employees don't thinkthere is a healthy balance between work and personal life.

    Ask any working mother how much "leisure" time she's had in thepast month, and she'll probably ask you to remind her what the word"leisure" means. As more and more people try to find the delicatebalance between work, family, and the obligations that go with both, it hasbecome obvious that people need more flexibility to balance the two.

    I have introduced legislation that does just that. The Family Time andWorkplace Flexibility Act gives workers the flexibility to work extra hours oneweek so they can take extra hours off the next--to go to a soccer game, a pianorecital, take an elderly parent to the doctor, attend Cousin Al's wedding, or doanything else you need a little extra time off to do.

    Employers are not allowed to discriminate against workers who choose time offinstead of overtime. And employees don't have to explain why they want time off.This plan gives employees the flexibility to plan their jobs around thepriorities of having a family and having a life.

    The Family Time and Workplace Flexibility Act has three major components. Thefirst provision dynamically reforms the way we think about the workweek. Insteadof the rigid 40-hour workweek, hourly employees will be able to "flex"their schedules by working up to 10 additional hours one week in order to take10 hours off the next week.

    The second provision gives employees the option of taking comp time in lieuof overtime pay. The third provision allows employees to work excess hours,which they can exchange for time off later on. This gives even those who do nottypically have the opportunity to work overtime a way to build up hours so theycan take time off later when they need it.

    All of these provisions give employees more flexibility. This is not a newidea. Federal government employees have had this flexibility since 1978, andPresident Clinton issued an Executive Order to expand the concept even furtherbecause he believed it increases employee effectiveness and job satisfaction.

    The Society for Human Resource Management agrees with this assessment.Employers will see higher retention, and employees will be given more latitudein their schedules. If we give employees simple ways to balance their familycommitments with their work commitments, absenteeism will fall and morale willimprove. That's good for business and good for families.

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