Workflex Bill Presented at Congressional Hearing

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According to Johnny C. Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employers will easily be able to offer employees better options for paid leave and general working conditions while maintaining the ability to reach business goals with the enactment of the Workflex in the 21st Century Act. On July 24 Taylor testified to the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions in regards to the workflex bill.

“Today’s employers all share the same challenge: attracting and maintaining a high-quality workforce,” Taylor said at the hearing. This is due to the fact that the “war for talent’ is now waging in the workforce because of record-low unemployment and an accelerating economy.

The way people work has changed over time and an increasing number of workers are seeking jobs with flexible work arrangements in order to meet life’s demands. “But outdated workplace rules and government-mandated leave requirements make it hard for employers to offer the arrangements that employees want,” he said.

This is where the workflex bill, H.R. 4219, comes into play. The bill was introduced in November 2017, by Rep. Mimi Walters, R-California. Taylor says that the bill will give employers the ability to provide leave and flexibility to their employees, help companies with attracting and retaining necessary talent, and therefore business will be allowed to grow and thrive.

As of right now, there are 10 states and more than 30 localities with paid-sick-leave requirements, but each of them has their own definition of terms, accrual rates, employee eligibility rules, record-keeping and reporting requirements, and thresholds for triggering coverage. Because of the multiple different adaptations of the paid-sick-leave rules, there are many inconsistencies which makes it hard for employers to manage their businesses.

The workflex bill is seen as a nationwide solution by its supporters. It offers more options and flexibility to employees and it promises employers predictability. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) will be modified by the bill. The modification will give employers the opportunity to voluntarily provide plans for a federal minimum standard of paid leave along with a workflex option like compressed work schedules or telecommuting.

Taylor stated that opting into the ERISA-covered workflex plan means employers would have the ability to grant uniform paid leave, instead of having to figure out the various requirements that state and local paid-sick-leave have. The bill would:

  • Require voluntary employer participation.
  • Grant every employee of a participating business paid leave and workflex options.
  • Add to existing employer practices. Some companies are already offering said benefits.

Any full- or part-time employees that work at a company offering an ERISA workflex plan would have guaranteed paid leave that is more than all state and almost all local sick-leave requirements, under H.R. 4219. They would also have the ability to exercise their rights under the act without fear of retaliation because they’re protected by ERISA.

Any employer that opts out of participating still has to follow their state and local paid-leave requirements. “This means that no employee would lose paid leave under this bill,” Taylor said.