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Family Friendly Workplaces

Many of today's employers recognize that offering some degree of flexibility for scheduling and benefits is an essential tool for recruitment and retention of workers. Though family dynamics have changed over the last several decades, women essentially remain the primary caregivers for children and other family members in a great number of families. Therefore, family friendly workplaces, which benefit all workers, disproportionately benefit women.

The U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau offers a number of resources related to flex schedules in the workplace. Flexible workplace schedules not only benefit workers, but are extremely valuable for employers in such areas as reducing absenteeism, building employee loyalty, and the ability to offer attractive benefits for little or no cost.

The federal Family Medical Leave Act requires that employers with 50 employees or more provide job-protected, unpaid leave of up to twelve weeks to workers in their employee for at least 12 months:

  • For the birth of a son or daughter or placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job; or
  • For any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status.

An eligible employee may also take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a "single 12-month period" to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness, when the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of the servicemember. The "single 12-month period" for military caregiver leave is different from the 12-month period used for other FMLA leave reasons.

For employers who wish to implement a paid sick days policy, the National Partnership for Women and Families provides several resources.

The Office on the Status of Women commonly fields questions related to pregnancy and breastfeeding while working. Employment discrimination due to pregnancy is against the law. The public interest is best served when employers allow and encourage those employees who wish to breastfeed to do so, such as making reasonable accommodations for nursing employees to have time and space to pump. Pumping typically takes 20 minutes, twice a day. The Department of Labor has created a useful guide for employees and employers alike. La Leche Leaguethe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Iowa Department of Public Health have many other resources as well.