Is Flexible Work a Caregivers’ Right?


A FAMILY-FRIENDLY workplace rule proposed by San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu is one of the few pieces of legislation I have seen that recognizes the reality of caregivers.

The San Francisco legislation, which would have to be put before voters next November before it becomes law, would grant parents or caregivers the right to request a flexible work schedule, including telecommuting, job sharing, working part-time or simply adjusting their day-to-day work start and stop times.

Employers in San Francisco who have 10 or more employees could only deny these requests if they create “undue hardship” for their companies such as increased costs or a “detrimental effect” on the companies ability to meet the demands of customers or clients. Those who fail to follow the law would face fines of $50 a day for each employee whose rights were violated, plus back pay and benefits when applicable.

This is revolutionary, at least for the United States. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand have had these policies for years, and according to Supervisor Chiu, their experiences have with them have been “overwhelmingly successful.”

My guess is that most people in the rest of America will at best see this as just another wacky San Francisco eccentricity. At worst, a socialist plot, another example of government interfering with the natural flow of capitalism.

It is not even a sure bet that San Francisco voters will OK a flexible work law, assuming it even gets to the ballot. The local Chamber of Commerce is beside itself, calling the proposal “beyond believable.”

San Francisco employers already complain about the city’s higher minimum wage ($10.55/hr), mandatory paid sick leave and employee health care mandate. These drive up the cost of doing business, obviously, but San Francisco is booming like never before. Thanks mostly to tech companies including Twitter, Salesforce, Instagram, Yelp and more than 100 others, the city coffers are overflowing with surplus revenue. Cost of living is soaring, but so are the wages.

Making San Francisco and eventually other cities and hopefully states better places to work for families and caregivers makes complete sense in the long run. Companies that implement work flexibility rules are going to be more attractive places to work. Employers will benefit by having more loyal, dedicated and I would argue, smarter workers.

Flexible work should be a caregiver’s right.

–David Bunnell

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