NOT MARRIED TO THE JOBA Report on Marriage-Friendly Business Practices
Americans are working longer and harder, and married Americans are no exception. But married Americans — particularly those with children — are bearing an even greater strain on their lives. Long commutes, juggling schedules, children’s activities, and keeping the home running all pull married workers in many directions. And these pressures often spill over into their work life.
While family and life pressures can pull married workers in many directions, solutions are available that are attractive to employers as well as married employees. With sustained economic growth, a correspondingly tighter labor market, and qualified workers at a premium, employers are increasingly responding to employee needs. Employers increasingly recognize that a healthy work-life balance for their employees avoids burnout, reduces turnover, prevents relational problems and ultimately means benefits for business. As a result, more employers are voluntarily taking steps to help their workers to better balance their job responsibilities with their responsibilities to their spouse and other family members.
PURPOSE OF THIS REPORT
The Alliance for Marriage was a diverse, nonpartisan coalition that promotes the institution of marriage, applauds those employers who have adopted marriage-friendly business practices. This report highlights some of the most marriage-friendly business practices in use today. It also informs employers of how they can help their married employees.
By identifying marriage-friendly business practices that some employers have voluntarily put in place, AFM hoped to stimulate the development and adoption of other, creative business practices that will help to safeguard workers’ marriages. Such a renaissance in the American workplace would meet the classic definition of a “win-win” situation. More businesses would prosper economically even more as their married employees successfully balance work and life demands.
Indeed, it is very much in the interest of employers to encourage the stability of their employees’ marriages. Marriage is a universal social institution that transcends all racial, cultural, and religious boundaries. Social science evidence overwhelmingly confirms the numerous benefits of a stable marriage between a husband and wife, including: adult mental and physical health, adult productivity, and child development across a range of important indicators.
SOME MARRIAGE-FRIENDLY WORKPLACE OPTIONS
So, what are some marriage-friendly business practices employers can adopt? These forward-thinking business practices include job sharing, home-based work options, flexible schedules, compensatory time off, paid leave and financial assistance for adoption, work-based marriage education, and marriage counseling as a fringe benefit of employment.
- Job Sharing
Sharing an employment position with another person is one way of getting the work done, but with the responsibilities shared between two co-workers. This arrangement gives the two job-sharers more time for family responsibilities, yet the income and satisfaction of continuing their career. This option can be designed to work with certain types of jobs and individuals.
- Home-based Work Options
Working from home, either full-time or some of the time, can offer over-stressed married employees a way to economize their time. Especially for those with a long commute or those who routinely have obligations close to home during business hours, home-based work options may help workers meet work responsibilities while relieving the stress of having to be two places at once. This approach may not work for some people or for certain types of jobs, but many employees do have the self-discipline to meet the demands of keeping on task for work while physically being at home.
- Flexible Schedules
This marriage-friendly business practice lets employees vary their work schedule. They may start work earlier in the day and leave earlier, or they may come in late and stay on after the normal quitting time. But having some flexibility in their work schedule can provide married employees with the critical margin of relief necessary to juggle competing home and work schedules successfully.
- Compensatory Time Off
Compensatory time-off legislation would update the Fair Labor Standards Act in order to allow workers to save their overtime and take it in the form of time off instead of money. This would allow workers to take time off for a variety of personal leave needs.
- Paid Leave and Financial Assistance for Adoption
Just as many new parents receive paid maternity (and, increasingly, paternity) leave, so too can employers grant paid leave and financial assistance for those who have become new parents as the result of adoption. New adoptive parents experience most of the same challenges with a new baby’s arrival, whether that baby is delivered or adopted. Giving adoptive parents the same terms of paid leave and benefits as other new mothers and fathers lets employers show that they value those employees who adopt. In the interest of fairness, this is a minimum step that employers should take to avoid penalizing those parents who make the compassionate and socially beneficial choice to adopt a child in need of a family.
- Work-Based Marriage Education
Marriage education programs offered through one’s employment can help equip workers to balance home and work responsibilities, as well as to be better family members. Such a marriage-friendly business practice can help more American workers enjoy the benefits of the wide range of educational materials available to assist them in building or preserving strong marriages and families. Moreover, the benefits of a healthy marriage pay off in employee job performance. This is worker support that more employers should be excited about.
- Marriage Counseling
Employers often provide employee enrichment programs, Employee Assistance Programs, and other benefits that address their personal needs, such as drug and alcohol dependence counseling. There is a compelling body of evidence that argues for including marriage counseling in these programs for those employees who may be having difficulty in their marriages or other family relationships. Certainly, employers have a vested interest in seeing their employees resolve personal problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse. They have just as much of a vested interest in their employees’ overcoming marital problems which, if not addressed, can seriously affect their employee’s overall well-being and productivity.
PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR MARRIAGE-FRIENDLY BUSINESS PRACTICES
As working Americans feel the increasing stress that trying to balance work and home life places on their marriages, they welcome employer-sponsored relief. In a recent Wirthlin Worldwide national poll commissioned by the Alliance for Marriage, a clear majority of Americans said they strongly supported private-sector initiatives to strengthen marriages.
|87% of Americans agreed, “Businesses should voluntarily do more to help strengthen their employees’ marriages by offering flex-time/job-sharing/home-based work options.”
Without a doubt, the American public overwhelmingly supports marriage-friendly employment practices. Most Americans would welcome the support of their employers in their efforts to meet their obligations to their spouses and children, as well as to their jobs.
INFORMATION MARRIED WORKERS CAN USE
The best employers understand the benefits their businesses derive from having employees whose marriages are strong. Many employers already take marriage-friendly steps voluntarily. AFM hoped this report will stimulate more employers to do the same.
In addition, married workers need to know that many employers will voluntarily make such accommodations for their married employees. This report can inform married workers of the types of marriage-friendly employment practices they might request. Working family members can and should do more to understand their own employer’s policies, as well as learn about creative options that they may be able to propose to their supervisor.
It is hoped that this report will inspire many American employers and American workers to explore the many alternative employment arrangements that have become a possibility in the age of the Internet and telecommuting. One thing is clear: Married Americans need support in successfully addressing conflicts between their work life and their personal lives as spouses and parents.
Because of the importance of intact families to the welfare of children, marriage can be considered a contract between society and a couple, no less than between a man and a woman. As the place where most people spend the greatest percentage of their waking hours, the workplace is one area of our society where the human and social importance of marriage should be supported.
In a healthy society, employment should enhance family life, not be an impediment to it. And the best way to achieve this goal is through voluntary, marriage-friendly business practices such as those described in this report. As the technology and communications revolutions continue to reshape the American workplace, the time has come to realize that everyone is a loser when large numbers of Americans still feel married to the job.