Women's Rights



Family Leave / Workplace Flexibility - America's Next Step


President Obama's recent signing of the Workplace Flexibility Act is the next step in America's progress toward greater equality for women in the workplace.

The Workplace Flexibility Act grants employees a statutory right to flexible work terms and conditions. The Act requires employers to meet with the employee within 14 days to discuss the employee's request, and to provide the employee with a written decision in answer to the request. The Act further requires employers to state grounds for the denial of a request, and to propose an alternative modification. Employees are entitled to request reconsideration of the employer's decision.

President Clinton's signing of the Family Leave Act (1993) was a solid start in the direction of granting women, all employees and families greater flexibility and latitude for paid medical leave - and secure job status upon returning to work. Despite some progress, America trails far behind other democratic societies in understanding the value of granting meaningful lifestyle rights to workers in general and women with families in particular. The film "9 to 5" - starring Jane Fonda, Lilly Tomlin and Dolly Parton (based on Dolly Parton's smash hit song) - was a scathing, highly humourous expose of the great need to vastly improve women's rights and equality on the job, with flexibility and family leave as key elements to such progress. 

A comparison of worker's, family and women's rights between America and the rest of the world can only be described as stunning. European nations consider the issue of family leave to be an essential human right. Paid time for family leave - in many cases shared by both spouses in a marriage - ranges from a peak of 56 weeks in Norway, 52 weeks in the United Kingdom, 26 weeks in Ireland, 16 weeks in France, Spain and Luxembourg, and 14 weeks in Germany. The United Nations grants 16 weeks. In the Americas, only the United States has no set policy whatsoever to grant time for paid family leave. Canada leads the world on the issue, at 50 weeks plus an additional 35 shared between both spouses. Brasil allows 4 months, Cuba and Chile 18 weeks, and Jamaica 12 weeks. In other areas of the world, Israel has established 14 weeks, with India and Pakistan each setting policies of 12 weeks.

It is all too obvious that - even in light of the signing of progressive workplace leave and flexibility legislation by Presidents Obama and Clinton - the United States must rapidly and dramatically raise the level of consciousness of both working people and all elements and members of government in order to enact much more legislation - and many additional programmes - to bring American workers and their families up to par with the rest of the world on an issue of critical human values and practical interest.   





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