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Work/Family Options and Examples of Contract Language

Once the committee has completed its research, it should consider various workplace programs which respond to employees’ child care and eldercare needs.

Alternative work schedules

Employees often find it necessary to deal with family responsibilities during work hours. Flexible working hours, compressed workweeks, part-time employment and job sharing arrangements allow employees to manage some of their caregiving responsibilities during regular work hours.

Before deciding on an alternative work schedule consider the following factors:

  • An alternative work schedule program should be instituted only as the result of a collective bargaining or other union/management agreement.

  • Although there is generally no cost to the employer to implement alternative work schedules, the employer may resist changing traditional schedules and may need to be educated about the benefits, such as increased productivity and morale, that can result from these types of programs.

  • Participation in any alternative work schedule should be voluntary.

  • Overtime compensation for hours worked beyond the basic 7- or 8-hour day should be maintained for employees not participating in an alternative work schedule. For those employees who do participate, overtime should be maintained beyond their agreed-upon work schedule.

  • The plan should be implemented on a trial basis for a specific period of time (not to exceed the life of the contract) and made permanent with the consent of the union. Periodic reviews should be made during the trial period.

 

Examples of contracts with alternative work schedules

  • The contract between AFSCME Council 24 and the state of Wisconsin has a number of alternative work schedules, including flexible work hours. The contract defines flextime as a work schedule structure requiring that all employees be at work during a specified number of core hours, with scheduling flexibility allowed for beginning and ending times surrounding those core hours.

  • AFSCME Local 3391 (Council 8) negotiated a contract with Hardin County, Ohio, that says employees, “may arrive at work anytime between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and shall exit from work anytime up to 5:30 p.m. provided the employee has worked the established core time. Employees shall select a one-half hour or one hour lunch period. Employees may flex their work time by taking a longer lunch period with advance approval of their supervisor.”

  • AFSCME Illinois Council 31 won the following compressed workweek language in their Master Agreement with the state of Illinois: “In lieu of the normal work week . . . an employee may request a work week composed of four (4) consecutive days of relatively equal length, followed by three (3) consecutive days off, or reasonable variations thereof.”

  • AFSCME Local 1901-B (Council 40) and Brown County, Wis. agreed on the following job sharing language:

Job sharing is a voluntary program providing two (2) employees the opportunity to share one (1) full-time position. These employees will share both the workload of that position and the wage package associated with it. . . .

Should a full-time position become available, an employee in a job share position can post for it . . . the other employee sharing the position can then . . . 1) attempt to find another existing employee to fill the vacant position, 2) assume the position on a full-time basis, or 3) resign the position in favor of a full-time candidate. The County agrees to consider recruiting for a part-time employee to fill the vacant portion of the position if the remaining employee desires the status quo.

 

Sick and personal leave

The right to use sick leave for family emergencies is a considerable benefit to employees with children or elderly relatives. This policy would allow use of sick leave to tend to family emergencies including children’s or parent’s illnesses. Some contracts also provide several personal leave days each year, in addition to vacation and holidays, to be used at the employee’s discretion.

The County of San Mateo, Calif., and AFSCME, Local 829 (Council 57), agreement, for example, allows employees to use the maximum of their accrued sick leave time for their own illness, the illness of a family member, and for the preparation for, or attendance at, the funeral of a member of the immediate family. Immediate family is defined as a parent, spouse, domestic partner, son, daughter, sibling, stepchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparent or grandchild.

 

Family leave

Most AFSCME members are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Among other things, the act allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave per year to care for family members, including parents and children, with serious health conditions. FMLA also contains provisions for intermittent leave or leave on a reduced schedule for planned medical treatment of a serious health condition. The employer must continue the employee’s health insurance benefits while he/she is on FMLA status.

Some states also have their own family and medical leave laws which may provide benefits that exceed those mandated under federal law. In addition, many AFSCME contracts provide for family leave in excess of the 12 weeks guaranteed under the FMLA. Employees receive the benefit of the most favorable provision in the FMLA, any applicable state law or the collective bargaining agreement.

One example of a collective bargaining provision is AFSCME Council 31’s contract with the state of Illinois which gives family responsibility leave of up to one year to care for family members, including domestic partners.

In Ohio, AFSCME’s affiliate, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) Chapter 151, and the Hamilton City Board of Education agreed to allow employees to use sick leave for a wide range of family needs.

The contract states that:

Within the school year, each employee . . . may use up to a total of fifty (50) days of his/her sick leave allowance or accumulation . . . for illness of the employee’s spouse, parent, father-in-law and mother-in-law (current), child (foster, step, and/or exchange student), or live-in relative. Those employees who are subject to the Family and Medical Leave provisions may use this section for relatives included in this section who are not covered by the Family and Medical Leave provisions.

  

  

Right to refuse overtime

Some employees may have to pick up their children at day care centers or may need to relieve a home care worker after work. Mandatory overtime would be a tremendous hardship for these employees. Contract language should be worked out that would allow an employee to decline to work overtime hours without jeopardizing his/her job.

One example of this type of language is in Ohio Council 8’s contract with the City of Columbus, which states:

Where practical, overtime shall be administered on a voluntary basis, otherwise, it shall be mandatory that each employee scheduled to work overtime must perform the job assignment within his given classification. An exception to the application of mandatory overtime scheduling shall be permissible when a valid reasonable request is made by an employee.

 

Resource and referral programs

In many cases, a worker is not familiar with local resources for eldercare and child care. Resource and referral services are crucial in helping an employee learn about and then choose among the numerous types of care available.

These programs give employees information about child care and eldercare in their community. A good resource and referral program would do the following:

  • employ a full-time director;

  • conduct one-on-one interviews with parents or adult children to match their needs with available services;

  • work with child care providers and Area Agencies on Aging in the community to improve quality of services;

  • advocate for expanded services; and

  • recruit and train family day care providers.

In addition, for eldercare, it is important that the service operate nationwide so that it can provide employees with information on services available where their parents live.

AFSCME affiliates in New York State negotiated a “Child & Eldercare Resource and Referral Service.” The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Consultants work with employees to develop a plan to meet their families’ needs. The service not only locates programs and services employees need, but it also provides them with guidebooks and checklists. The service provides both child care and eldercare assistance.

 

Telephone access

Workplace policies can discourage employees from receiving or making personal calls on the job. Yet calls to the organizations that provide child care and eldercare services often can be made only during work hours. Employees can be relieved of stress and concern if they know that they can receive and handle calls to their family if the need arises. A policy should be negotiated which would allow employees to receive calls from family members at any time, not just emergencies, and permit the employee to make necessary calls.

 

Workplace educational programs

Helpful educational programs can be offered at worksites and include—

  • Seminars

    A speaker is invited to the worksite to provide information to workers about child development or the aging process, the supply of local services, and ways to handle family pressures.

  • Support groups

    Workers become the information source by sharing coping strategies and experiences working with specific agencies. The employer or union can provide meeting space, and perhaps make contractual agreements for time off to meet. The group can be facilitated by an outside expert or internally by concerned employees.

  • Caregiver or care fairs

    Community agencies, child care providers or geriatric specialists are invited on a specific day to distribute information about the costs and availability of their services.

  • Caregiving components in detirement planning seminars

    For employees who will be caregivers after they retire, the inclusion of a caregiving component or seminar in existing retirement planning programs can assist workers with managing their eldercare responsibilities.

 

Employee assistance programs

Many AFSCME locals have negotiated for employee assistance programs (EAPs) to provide employees with professional assistance in dealing with a broad range of human relations problems. EAPs can be especially valuable to employees with child care or eldercare responsibilities. They often provide for family consultations, referrals to appropriate social service agencies, and referrals to financial and legal services when appropriate. Some EAPs also assist employees with locating eldercare or child care services.

The most effective EAPs are jointly coordinated by labor and management. The union should be involved in every stage of its development and operation. A local union or council should establish an EAP committee to coordinate AFSCME’s involvement.

An example of this program is the agreement between AFSCME Local 11, Ohio Civil Service Employee Association (OCSEA) and the state of Ohio. The agreement requires joint promotion of the program, an EAP advisory committee composed of nine union representatives who meet with and advise the director of the EAP, and orientation and training about the EAP for union stewards.

Another type of EAP is a union-operated program. In some cases, union members may feel more comfortable with a union-operated program and hence may be more likely to seek assistance. The union hires clinicians to run the program. Therefore, the staff are employees of the union. AFSCME Council 31 in Illinois has such a program. Its Personal Support Program (PSP) provides treatment and also refers members to external treatment, if necessary. The PSP is authorized to work with members’ health maintenance organizations and health care providers. The program is a cooperative labor/management effort.

AFSCME Council 57 and the City of Patterson, Calif. negotiated an EAP which specifically includes child care consultation and eldercare.

 

Financial assistance programs

Financial assistance programs help employees pay for the cost of caregiving. Some provide tax breaks, such as Dependent Care Assistance Programs, or some subsidize costs by providing vouchers to the employees or by offering discounts from area vendors.

Dependent Care Assistance Programs (DCAP): allows an employee and/or employer to set aside up to $5,000 in an employer-held account to help pay for nonmedical child care or eldercare costs. This money is not subject to federal income tax or Social Security tax and, in most states, is also exempt from state income tax. The expenses must be in accordance with the restrictions set out by the Internal Revenue Code.

In order to qualify for eldercare expenses, the older relative must meet the Internal Revenue Code definition of a dependent (see the instructions for the IRS 1040 tax form).

Although savings will differ depending on each individual’s tax status and the state tax rate, the following chart shows what tax savings might look like with the maximum deferral of $5,000:

 

 Federal Tax Savings 28%  x $5,000   = $1,400.00
 State Tax Savings 5%  x $5,000  = $250.00
 Social Secrity Tax Savings 7.65% x $5,000  = $382.50
 Annual Total Tax Savings      = $2,032.50

In this example, the employer also would save $382.50 because the employer would not have to pay its portion of Social Security tax.

AFSCME/OCSEA Local 11 and the state of Ohio negotiated a DCAP program. It can be used to help pay the expenses of caring for dependent children or adults.

While DCAPs offer employees the advantage of tax savings, these accounts also present certain risks.

  • Benefits based on salary will be reduced unless plans are revised to avoid this problem. Generally, it is legally permissible to negotiate provisions allowing benefit levels that are based on salary to be determined on the full salary of the employee, rather than on the reduced salary. Exceptions are as follows:

    • Federal law requires that Social Security benefits be based on wages reported on the employee’s W-2 form, which would reflect the reduced salary. However, because Social Security benefits are based on salary throughout an employee’s career, employees with DCAPs would not see benefits significantly reduced in most situations.

    • State laws may dictate whether workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits can be based on full salary.

  • Because reimbursement is made only after the expense has been paid, a temporary cash flow problem could occur each month.

  • If the employee designated more money than he/she spent on dependent care expenses, the unspent funds become the property of the employer.

The law prohibits any reversion to the employee, or any carryover to a subsequent plan year.

For a copy of AFSCME’s factsheet Dependent Care Assistance Programs, and/or sample contract language, contact the Department of Research and Collective Bargaining Services.

 

Employer Subsidies

Voucher program

 Under this program, the employer subsidizes a percentage of the costs either through direct payment to the provider in the form of a voucher or by reimbursing the employee. Contract provisions have been negotiated to help pay for child care that could be expanded to cover eldercare.

For example, AFSCME/OCSEA and the state of Ohio negotiated a child care subsidy. Under this program, employees with an adjusted gross family income of $30,000 and less are eligible. Part-time employees are eligible for the program on a pro-rated basis. Expenses paid for children 13 years old or less are covered. One lump payment is made to the employees between March 1 and May 15 of each year. Maximum reimbursements are: $500 for one child; $800 for two; and $100 for each child thereafter to a maximum family allotment of $1,000.

Vendor programs or discounts

 An employer can also subsidize costs by purchasing a number of “slots” in day care centers. In this arrangement, these “slots” are then offered to employees at a reduced rate. The cost to the employer for this program depends largely on the amount of the employer’s subsidy, the eligibility criteria for employee participation and the number of participants.

 

Direct Assistance

On-site center

 An on-site center is located on the employer’s premises, operated either by the employer, the employees or by a contractor. On-site care is one of the more expensive alternatives available to employees and may not meet the needs of a large number of employees.

AFSCME affiliates have negotiated over 60 on-site and near-site centers. Among these victories are the following quality programs:

  • AFSCME Local 2415 (Council 8) and the Medical College of Ohio negotiated the Toledo Medical College Early Learning Center as a benefit for AFSCME members in 1970. The center staff are AFSCME members, and some of the children who use the center are children of AFSCME-represented employees. The contract states:
The Early Learning Center shall operate from monies derived from participating employees and the general public. The Employer shall allocate any additional monies necessary to provide adequate staffing and facilities within the constraints of the institution operating budget for each fiscal year. The fee structure will be set by the institution. Applications will be considered in the order in which they are received. Vacancies shall first be offered to employees then to the general public.

Off-site center

 An employer can also set up a center near the worksite or can join with a group of employers to underwrite the establishment of a center with a guaranteed number of slots for their employees (consortium). Also, employers may support an existing center with money, in-kind assistance, or space in return for employee access to child care.

In Michigan, the AFSCME Local 101 (Council 25) and the Wayne County Labor-Management Committee established Kidspace in 1989 to serve the families of Wayne County employees and employees of other downtown area businesses. It serves infants beginning at 6 weeks up to children 4 and 5 years of age. It offers an early childhood development program, including indoor and outdoor play and activities, plus a nutritious breakfast, a hot lunch and two snacks served daily. Parents supply food and formula/milk for children not eating table food. Parents also supply diapers. Tuition assistance and/or the county scholarship program is available to employees.

School-age child care programs

 This could include before- and after-school programs, programs for school holidays, and summer programs. They can be located in public or private schools, churches, child care centers, and youth-oriented recreational institutions, such as the YWCA/YMCA.

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