SHRM-Developed Workflex Proposal Introduced in the House

Lisa Horn By Lisa Horn November 10, 2017

On November 2, Representative Mimi Walters (R-CA) introduced H.R. 4219, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, culminating a multi-year effort by SHRM and its members to develop a workplace flexibility (workflex) public policy that meets the needs of both employers and employees. The bill has two original cosponsors, Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY). Upon introduction, the bill also drew immediate bipartisan support from the Progressive Policy Institute and the Republican Main Street Partnership, which should bolster its chances of advancing during the second session of the 115th Congress. 

Rather than a one-size-fits-all government mandate included in numerous congressional proposals to date, H.R. 4219 offers employers an incentive voluntarily to provide employees paid leave and flexible work options. The bill would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to allow employers the option of offering a qualified workflex plan that includes a federal minimum standard of paid leave and flexible work arrangements. This new ERISA plan would pre-empt eight current state sick-leave laws, along with over 35 local paid leave ordinances and certain workflex laws—giving participating employers the ability to follow a federal framework for paid leave and workflex, as opposed to complying with a range of complex and conflicting state and local leave laws.

Key provisions of the bill are outlined below.

  • Employer participation is completely voluntary.
  • For participating employers, paid-leave requirements would be scaled to the size of the employer's workforce and the tenure of the employee.
  • Paid leave would be extended to all full-time employees, and part-time employees would be entitled to a proportional amount of paid leave based on the number of hours worked.
  • Employees may accrue leave over the course of a plan year, or employers may offer employees a leave lump-sum amount at the start of the plan year. New employees would be subject to restrictions on the use of leave during the first 90 days of employment.
  • To be eligible for a workflex arrangement, an employee would have to be employed for at least 12 months by the employer and would have to have worked at least 1,000 hours during the previous 12 months.
  • Under the plan, employers would offer at least one of the following workflex arrangements to each eligible employee: compressed work schedule, biweekly work program, telecommuting program, job-sharing program, flexible scheduling or a predictable schedule.
  • Employee participation in the workflex program is entirely voluntary and participation cannot be a condition of employment. In addition, strong anti-retaliation and anti-coercion protections for employees are contained in the legislation.

In conjunction with the bill being introduced, SHRM launched a new coalition titled Employers for Flexibility (E4F) to rally employer support for H.R. 4219.  (Be sure to follow @Employers4Flex on Twitter for the latest coalition updates.)

SHRM member advocacy in support of the bill, however, will start immediately, as nearly 400 SHRM members and HR professionals will advocate in support of the bill on Capitol Hill next week during the SHRM Volunteer Leaders' Summit.  

For more information on the bill, including member advocacy opportunities, visit the SHRM Policy Action Center's Workflex Campaign and follow the conversation on Twitter using #WorkflexBill.


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