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Workplace Flexibility

About Workplace Flexibility

Workplace flexibility and access to alternative work arrangements are crucial for America’s working families to help reconcile work-family responsibilities, stay globally competitive by pursuing training and education, and help in the transition from work to retirement.

When flexible work arrangements are available, both employers and employees benefit. When not, employees may be pushed out of employment altogether or be forced to choose work below their skill and experience level. This can lead to a loss of human capital for the whole economy. For example, highly educated women in the United States are less likely to be in employment than in any other of 20 high income nations.

In 2008, IWPR released a report focusing on statutory employment rights aimed at increasing workers’ ability to change their working hours and arrangements in 20 high-income countries. Statutory Routes to Workplace Flexibility in Cross-National Perspective includes statutes providing a general right to alternative work arrangements as well as those targeting work-family reconciliation, lifelong learning, and gradual retirement, and argues that an explicit right to request flexible working can play an important role in preparing the U.S. economy for the future.

IWPR has collaborated with the Sloan Center on Aging & Work to produce a detailed overview of legal arrangements regarding workplace flexibility in the United States and 20 other high income countries, released in 2008. This collaboration also resulted in a report that provided an overview of the employment and social security rights of part-time workers in the United States and 20 other high income countries.


Family Leave & Paid Sick Days, IWPR

Visit our additional resources page for links to more information on this topic.

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Latest Reports from IWPR

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Are Mommies Dropping Out of the Labor Force? No!
by Janice Hamilton Outzz (March 1996)

Despite a spate of recent news articles reporting a slow down and even reversal of the long-term growth in women's labor force participation-- articles that assume the reversal is led by mothers anxious to stay at home with their children-- the data show that most mothers are continuing to increase their participation in the labor force, even during the current recession. More women are working than ever before. Married mothers and mothers of very young children have increased their labor force participation most.


Exploring the Characteristics of Self-Employment and Part-Time Work Among Women
by (May 1993)

The quality of jobs created during the 1980s-- and whether these were "good" jobs or "bad" jobs-- has been the source of a highly charged debate. The quality of jobs is of increasing importance to women as their financial responsibility for themselves and their families has grown, and they have been seeking employment opportunities at increasing rates. Between 1970 and 1990 the labor force participation rates of mothers increased from about 40 percent to 67 percent, so that by 1990, 22 million mothers were in the labor force. Six million of these women workers were single parents. Because of family responsibilities, and for other reasons, such as requiring more education, many women may seek alternative, more flexible employment, both in part-time work and self-employment. As a result, the caliber of part-time jobs, self-employment, and other alternative forms of employment available to women workers in a pressing topic for research.


Increasing Working Mothers’ Earnings
by (November 1991)

Previous research on both the earnings of working mothers and the poverty of women-maintained families has employed a sex-segregated model that focuses on family-related characteristics to explain women's low wages or their inferior economic position. These family-related characteristics include such variables as marital status, presence of a full-time working spouse, and number and ages of children. Prior studies also consistently regard working mothers as secondary earners rather than as necessary breadwinners.


Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave
by Roberta M. Spalter-Roth and Heidi Hartmann (April 1990)

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