Employers Need Flexibility in Meeting Needs of Employees, SHRM Tells Senate Committee

May 10, 2012
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HR professional: Paid time off is most effective when it’s a voluntary employer benefit

Washington, D.C., May 10, 2012 — The federal government should encourage employers to provide paid leave to their employees rather than create mandates that limit employers’ ability to respond to the specific needs of their employees, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) told the U. S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions today.

Speaking on behalf of 260,000-member SHRM, Juanita Phillips described how her employer, Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation (INTUITIVE) of Huntsville, Ala., voluntarily provides a range of flexible benefits, including paid leave, that allow it to recruit and retain top workers. As a result of its benefits offerings, the small engineering and analytical services firm has received national awards, including being named a Best Small Company to Work for in the U.S.

Phillips, director of human resources, described for the committee how the Healthy Families Act (S. 984) would affect her employer and others across the country. “We provide generous paid leave so that we can continue to be an employer of choice for employees and applicants in our area,” she testified. “What we do not want is a government-imposed paid leave mandate to take away our competitive edge over other employers.”

SHRM believes that all employers should be encouraged to provide paid leave for illness, vacation and personal days to accommodate the needs of employees and their families. In return for meeting a minimum eligibility requirement, employers who choose to provide paid leave should be designated as satisfying federal, state and local requirements, SHRM says.

SHRM is concerned that the Healthy Families Act is so broad and ill-defined that it would create burdensome administrative challenges for employers and that it would add to the already complex web of inconsistent and overlapping leave requirements for employers.

In addition, Phillips said, “If organizations are required to offer paid sick leave, they will likely absorb this added cost by cutting back or eliminating other employee benefits, such as health or retirement benefits, or forgo wage increases.”

During testimony at the hearing “Beyond Mother’s Day: Helping the Middle Class Balance Work and Family,” Phillips emphasized the importance of flexibility.

SHRM’s workplace flexibility initiative advocates for employer policies and practices that have been shown to meet the needs of employees and their families while providing predictability and stability for employers.

“We are not required to offer these benefits at Intuitive, but we do because they work well for our employees and help us attract and retain the best people,” she told senators.

MEDIA: For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy at kate.kennedy@shrm.org and 703-535-6260.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at www.shrm.org or follow SHRM @SHRMPress.

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