Employers are giving employees more flexibility to work from home and work various hours as long as employees get work done, but they’re not willing to pay more for various work-life benefits. This is according to a new study released Monday from the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute.
In the 2012 study, significantly more employers now allow at least some employees to
use flextime and periodically change starting and quitting times within some range of hours (77% in 20121, up from 66% in 2005) and more let employees to take time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay (87% this year, compared to 77% in 2005).
Greater numbers of employers also allow employees to work some of their regular paid hours at home on an occasional basis (63% in 2012, compared to 34% in 2005) and permit employees to have control over their paid and unpaid overtime hours (44% in 2012, up from 28% in 2005).
The increase in flexible work arrangements, however, hasn’t correlated with a rise in more generous paid work-life benefits. On the contrary, the maximum length of caregiving leaves offered to new fathers following childbirth, new adoptive parents and employees caring for seriously ill family members has declined since 2005. Among those employers that provide any pay for disability related to childbirth (58%), far fewer provide full pay, now at 9%, down from 17% in 2005.
“There is a gap still going on with fathers; not only are men getting less time, they’re having to choose if they get paid,” says Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and practice at FWI and the lead author of the report. “Men aren’t asking for these supports, so the employer thinks, ‘Why should we supply them?’ You can put them in an awkward position if they can ask for it, but they won’t get paid for it. Helping employees pay for child care with pretax dollars has jumped up, whereas backup or emergency care for children has dropped. This reflects a consistent trend with employers cutting back on things that cost money.”
Employers are making targeted investments though that could positively affect employees’ work-life. A larger percentage of employers are providing employee assistance programs to help employees deal with problems and pressures — 74% now, up from 46% in 2005. There also has been an increase in wellness programs, with 63% providing these programs today compared with 47% in 2005. In addition, more employers are providing women with private space for breastfeeding in 2012 (79%) than in 2005 (71%).
While the study didn’t measure utilization rates of various work-life programs, its authors note that culture and communication play a large part in employee participation. “It’s not helpful to be told you can do something and then you can’t use it. Then flexibility becomes a trap and people avoid using it,” says Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of Families and Work Institute. “When we look at large and small employers we find an interesting dichotomy. Large employers are more likely to say they’re trying to make an ongoing effort of informing employees of flexibility policies and they can do things that apply to economies of scale. However, small employers may be better at making small adjustment on the fly, so that may be some of where we see small employer lead in some areas, and large in others.”
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