In a recent session, New Hampshire’s legislature passed Senate Bill 416. The new law “prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who requests a flexible work schedule.” Although the law does not require the employee to accommodate a flexible work schedule, it prohibits an employer from taking any negative employment action again an employee who makes the request.
The Granite State Progress Education Fund and NH Citizens Alliance stated that the bill “eliminated” a major barrier to women entering and re-entering the workforce, especially after having children. “Workplace flexibility” and “flextime” are cited as the number one interest from a recent survey conducted by the NH Women’s Foundation. The legislature has not defined what constitutes a “request” for a “flexible work schedule” and doesn’t clearly define what constitutes “retaliation.” This new law is meant to foster a more hospitable environment for flexible work arrangements.
So what should businesses do? Listen to your employees. If an employee asks you to adjust his/her work schedule so he/she can get the kids off to school or so he/she can be home to get them off the bus, engage in a discussion. Talk about the pros and cons of the request. What would the costs be to the company? What about the cost to the morale of the other employees? If you have to say no, then so be it. Document very carefully your reasons for denying the request and keep excellent records on that employee’s future performance and employment actions.
However, consider whether your organization can embrace the concept of workplace flexibility. Remember, the request could also come from someone who is at the other end of the employment cycle. Employees who are nearing retirement don’t necessarily want to stop working the day they turn 62 or 65. Many of them would like to ease into retirement by working half days for a period of time or go from 5 days down to 4 days and then down to 3 days. The more you are able to accommodate these valuable employees and those on the other end of the employment cycle (those young parents), the more you are able to provide all of your employees a work/life balance that they will cherish.
If you want some help in adjusting your culture to accommodate flexibility in your workplace, HR Compliance 101, LLC can help. Call us.