Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance

Family Friendly Workplace Logo

Why do we need family friendly workplaces?

What is the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance?

Resources for a family friendly workplace


Why Do We Need Family Friendly Workplaces?

The stereotypical one-breadwinner, one homemaker household is not a reality for most families in San Francisco. Despite the high number of single parent households, families with both parents working outside of the home, and  the dependent elderly or sick family members, our economy has yet to adapt. Workers with caregiving duties often find themselves reprimanded for requesting flexible or predictable work arrangements. Businesses also suffer when lack of flexibility or predictability forces workers to quit or affects their work productivity.

Workplace arrangements that offer flexibility and predictability in where, when, how, and what work is performed by employees holds the potential to benefit workers at all levels, especially those with caregiving duties. Numerous research studies have indicated that such arrangements are smart investments because they work in the best interest of the employees as well as the employers.

Research from the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College suggests that 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.

The UC Hastings Center for WorkLife Law found that in industries employing hourly workers, turnover rates are as high as 80% to 500%.  Flexibility and predictability in work arrangements increases productivity, leads to greater ease in scheduling, and improves retention of hourly workers, thereby reducing the high cost of turnover in these industries.

Read more: PDF icon Why Businesses Should Implement Workplace Flexibility.pdf

To successfully attract and retain the most talented and committed employees, growing numbers of employers are finding ways to accommodate the changing family structure through flexible and predictable workplace arrangements. Small and large, local and global businesses, are making smart investments in such arrangements, which have produced outstanding results:

Examples of successful family friendly local businesses:

  • Bi Rite Creamery and Market based in the city of San Francisco boasts a 280 member workforce that benefit from its flexible and predictable work arrangements. Caregivers, e.g. parents, can divide their work hours between work and home. Employees are able to better plan child care and other caregiving duties because their work schedules are announced 2-3 weeks in advance. Advanced predictability has also benefited the business in controlling costs. Bi Rite experiences less than 50 percent turnover, which is unusually low for the retail industry.

“Some of our employees are able to work earlier shifts so that they can attend to their family… A deli staff comes in at 6am and leaves at 2pm. An office staff works from home after 3pm”

Paula Brannon, Director of Human Resources, Bi Rite

  • Zazie is a successful small restaurant in Noe Valley with 38 employees. The owner thinks not having a predictable schedule with some flexibility is unthinkable.  It’s certainly not the norm in the restaurant business according to her. She believes the headaches associated with weekly scheduling are too stressful for managers and not good for employees either.  She has an online program where her employees can monitor their schedules, request time off, and even trade shifts. Her wait staff has four fixed days and one on-call day each week. She has low turnover and can take a hands off - - and headache free - - approach to scheduling by letting the employees help manage themselves.

“A predictable schedule saves me a lot time and ensures shift coverage while providing flexibility to my wait staff when they need it.”

Jennifer Piallat, Owner/Manager, Zazie

  • The Baldwin Hotel at the foot of Grant Avenue has been a family friendly workplace for years.  The staff ranges from students to people who are nearly ready to retire. A number of employees have children and some have family in China and need three weeks of vacation to make a worthwhile trip. Eddie Tang, owner, is able to accommodate their special needs because he makes sure he knows the needs of his employees. He does not use a scheduling application and prefers to meet directly with his employees to discuss his and their scheduling in a more personal way.

"A Family Friendly Workplace is the best way to do business.”

Eddie Tang, Owner, Baldwin Hotel

  • SRT consulting is a woman-owned water resource and environmental engineering firm based in San Francisco. SRT offers flexibility options and paid break time for its employees with caregiving duties.

Examples of successful family friendly global businesses:

  • 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 savings 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.

In an effort to mainstream similar supportive and productive workplaces in San Francisco, the City and County of San Francisco has implemented the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance. This ordinance is a tool to aid employers and employees in mutually benefiting from improved work-life balance.

What Is the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance?

The Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance (FFWO) is a City and County of San Francisco ordinance that was passed by the Board of Supervisors and came into effect on January 1, 2014. The ordinance applies to all public, private and nonprofit establishments in the city with 20 or more employees. The Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) oversees the enforcement of this ordinance. Please click here for OLSE information.

FFWO gives employees, who have worked for 6 months, the right to request flexible or predictable work arrangements to assist with caregiving responsibilities for:

  • A child or children for whom the employee has assumed parental responsibility
  • A person or persons with a serious health condition in a family relationship with the employee
  • A parent aged 65 or older

The FFWO creates a safe space for employees and employers to discuss flexible or predictable work arrangements. It aims to remove the fear of retaliation employees may face when requesting flexible or predictable work arrangements to meet caregiving duties. The FFWO prohibits employers from discharging, threatening to discharge, demoting, suspending, or otherwise taking adverse employment actions against employees because they are caregivers or because they exercise rights under the ordinance to request a flexible or predictable work arrangement.

An employer must meet with the employee within 21 days of  an employee’s request for a flexible or predictable working arrangement. After the meeting, the employer must respond to an employee’s request within 21 days. 

The FFWO grants the employee who requests a flexible or predictable working arrangement the right to a process; not to a specific outcome. An employer who denies a request must explain the denial in a written response that sets out a bona fide business reason for the denial and provides the employee with notice of the right to request reconsideration.

The FFWO is not a mandate to grant all employee requests for flexible or predictable working arrangements, but does open the door for dialogue between employees and employers about arrangements that will benefit both.

Resources for a Family Friendly Workplace

Webinar on the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance: What, Why, How

In collaboration with Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center, and, Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, the Department on the Status of Women created a webinar as a training tool for the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance. This webinar outlines the benefits of creating a family friendly workplace, and, describes the implementation process for the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance.

The webinar can be used for training employers, human resource staff, and employees. It can be accessed here.