Employers Reduce Flexibility Offered To Working Parents, Study Finds

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A major new study of employers shows that companies are cutting voluntary parental leave and and other relatively low-cost programs that provide many workers with the flexibility that they sometimes need to manage major life changes.

Data from the latest National Study of Employers, released Monday, show that 73 percent of employers today offer employees the ability to gradually return to work after giving birth to or adopting a child, down from 86 percent in 2005.

Similarly, the study, which surveyed more than 1,100 midsize and large companies, found that fewer employers (52 percent in 2012, compared to 73 percent in 2005) are permitting workers to take a break from their jobs to tend personal or family matters; and fewer of them are allowing full-time workers to transition to part-time work and back again, while still holding the same job -- 41 percent versus 54 percent.

"It seems that employers are dealing with the lingering economic instability by trying to accomplish more with fewer people," says report author Ellen Galinsky, president of the Family and Work Institute.

In an interview with AOL Jobs, Galinsky said that such programs aren't the sort required under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which stipulates that workers be given time off to tend to specific family and health matters.

Passed in 1993, FMLA gives employees at workplaces that employ 50 or more the right to 12 weeks of leave for: the birth or adoption of children; to tend to family members with a serious illness; or to recover from an illness that prevents the workers from doing their jobs.

Overall, Galinsky says, the latest data, which was provided by employers themselves, show that about 21 percent of large companies and 31 percent of medium-size companies are "out of compliance" with FMLA. She notes, however, that those statistics are no different from 2005.

Dads Affected More Than Moms

Though the findings may suggest that working mothers are being offered fewer benefits to help manage family and work, Galinsky says, "I'm actually a little more concerned about dads."

The study shows a decrease in the number of mothers who are allowed fewer than 12 weeks of leave -- to 10 percent from 22 percent. "That means that technically more companies are in compliance with FMLA," she says.

But when it comes to partners of women -- typically men -- data show that the average maximum amount of leave taken to tend to a newborn, a newly adopted child or a seriously ill family member has gone down.

The figures also show that among employers that offer paid maternity or paternity leave, 58 percent offered it to women, while only 14 percent did so for men.

Findings from the study, however, did show that significantly more employers in the post-recession era are allowing at least some employees to:

  • Use flex time and periodically change starting and quitting times within some range of hours (77 percent in 2012 compared to 66 percent in 2005).
  • Take time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay (87 percent versus 77 percent).
  • Work some of their regular paid hours at home on an occasional basis (63 percent from 34 percent).
  • Have control over their paid and unpaid overtime hours (44 percent up from 28 percent).

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