The Business Case for the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance
By the Coalition of San Francisco and California Organizations for Flexible Workplaces
The stereotypical one-breadwinner, one-homemaker household is not a reality for most families. Instead, most workers struggle to balance work and family caregiving responsibilities, which affects employee productivity and retention. To successfully attract and retain the most talented and committed employees, growing numbers of employers are realizing they need to adapt to the 21st century workforce and find ways to accommodate the changing family structure by adopting flexible workplace policies.
The San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance (FFWO) addresses this need by giving workers the right to request flexible working arrangements to help them meet their caregiving responsibilities for a child, an elderly parent, or a seriously ill family member. Examples of such arrangements include telecommuting, a change in schedule, or job-sharing. The ordinance requires employers to consider the employee's request, while also giving employers the right to deny it for valid business reasons. The FFWO also prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for requesting a flexible or predictable work arrangement, and makes it unlawful to discriminate against workers based on their status as caregivers. The ordinance covers workers employed within the City and County of San Francisco who work for employers with at least 20 employees, and applies to 3,652 out of roughly 100,000 registered businesses in the city.
The FFWO is not a mandate to grant all employee requests for flexible working arrangements, but does open the door for dialogue between employees and employers about arrangements that will benefit both. In fact, as explained below, businesses have a lot to gain from implementing family-friendly workplace (FFW) policies.
WHY BUSINESSES SHOULD IMPLEMENT WORKPLACE FLEXIBILITY
IT’S A SMART INVESTMENT.
According to the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, implementing workplace flexibility enhances recruitment, improves employee performance and productivity, increases retention and reduces turnover, results in better customer coverage and higher levels of customer satisfaction, increases cost savings and profits, provides high return on investment, and reduces absenteeism and presenteeism.
IT BENEFITS COMPANIES WITH HOURLY AND SALARIED WORKERS.
The UC Hastings Center for WorkLife Law has found that in some industries employing hourly workers, turnover rates are as high as 80% to 500%. Flexibility increases productivity, leads to greater ease in scheduling, and improves retention of hourly workers, thereby reducing the high cost of turnover in these industries.
IT HAS WORKED WELL IN OTHER COUNTRIES.
A number of countries, including Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and Holland have successfully implemented laws granting employees the right to request flexible workplace arrangements without fear of retaliation and require employers to consider such requests in good faith. Reports have highlighted the law’s positive impact in those countries, with most requests being accepted and costs not serving as an issue. Public education has been a necessary component for success.
IT BENEFITS BOTH MEN AND WOMEN.
The numbers of men requesting flexible work arrangements has increased dramatically. According to a 2011 study, 95% of working fathers agreed that workplace flexibility would impact their decision when considering a new job; more than three quarters reported using flex-time on a formal or informal basis; 57% worked from home at least some part of the time; and 27% utilized compressed workweeks.
IT IMPROVES EMPLOYEE PRODUCTIVITY, MORALE, AND RETENTION.
The Urban Institute at Georgetown Law School report that employees with access to flexible work arrangements tend to be more satisfied, committed, and engaged with their jobs, which leads to increased innovation, quality, productivity, market share, and lower turnover.
IT PROMOTES GENDER DIVERSITY AND GENDER BALANCE IN LEADERSHIP.
By offering flexible work arrangements, companies retain more talented women and are able to increase the number of women in leadership roles. Flexible work arrangements have also been shown to increase job retention among lower income women, leading to greater workplace experience and skills, career advancement, and higher earnings and retirement benefits.
EXAMPLES OF SUCCESS.
Best Buy, “employees can do whatever they want, when they want, where ever, as long as work gets done.” This Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) resulted in reduced turnover by 46%.
Cisco claimed saving of $195 million on a telecommuting program (2003).
Fortune 500 companies found that on average, firms’ stock prices rose 0.36% on the days following announcements of work-life balance initiatives.
References and Additional Resources
- A Better Balance. “The Business Case for Workplace Flexibility”. 2010.
- Berdahl, Jennifer, Mary Blair-Loy, and Joan Williams. “The Flexibility Stigma: Work Devotion vs. Family Devotion”. 2013.
- Bornstein, Stephanie. “The Legal and Policy Implications of the ‘Flexibility Stigma’”. 2013.
- Catalyst. “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Building the Business Case for Flexibility”. 2005.
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Statutory Routes to Workplace Flexibility in Cross-National Perspective”. 2008.
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Balancing Work and Family: How Analyzing the Costs and Benefits of Work-Family Legislation Supports Policy Change”. 2013
- Kane, Katherine, Christina Matz-Costa, Marie Pitt-Catsouphes, Ph.D., and Michael A. Smyer, Ph.D. “The National Study Report: Phase II of the National Study of Business Strategy and Workforce Development”. 2007.
- McKinsey & Company. “Preparing for a New Era of Work”. 2012.
- Northeastern University School of Law and the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. “Gender Equality Principle #2: Work-Life Balance and Career Development”. 2010.
- San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance, File No. 130622”. 2013.
- Siegel Bernard, Tara. “The Unspoken Stigma of Workplace Flexibility”. 2013.
- Swanberg, Jennifer E., Ph.D., Liz Watson, Workplace Flexibility 2010 Georgetown Law. “Flexible Workplace Solutions for Low-Wage Hourly Workers: A Framework for a National Conversation”. 2011.
- The Sloan Center on Aging and Work. “Schedule Flexibility in the workplace: The Business Case for Workplace Flexibility”. 2013.
- Urban Institute and Georgetown Law, Workplace Flexibility. “The Business Case for Flexible Arrangements”. 2010.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Women in the Labor Force: A Databook”. 2013.
- Van Pham, Hong. “Workplace Flexibility: A Dual-Investment in Families and Businesses”. 2013.
- Work Life Law UC Hastings College of the Law. “Improving Work-Life Fit in Hourly Jobs: An Underutilized Cost-Cutting Strategy in a Globalized World”. 2011.
The San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, Next Generation, and Equal Rights Advocates contributed to this fact sheet.