The week of April 15-19 is SHRM’s Advocacy Team (A-Team) blog week. The theme is “comp time”. Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) has introduced a comp bill, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 (H.R.1406). The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow employers to provide comp time, that gives private sector employers the option of offering their hourly employees the choice of paid time off for overtime hours worked.
SHRM is supportive of this proposal. Read our position paper.
The following are HR professionals blog posts in support of H.R.1406 “comp time” proposal:
Workplace Flexibility Practices Should Be . . . Flexible
Workplace flexibility practices should be … flexible. I think it’s a no-brainer. Right?
Flexibility in our workplaces is key these days in helping us get and keep great employees. But those practices have to differ from company to company. Different industries operate very differently, and what works well at one company may not work at all for another. I have practiced HR in a publishing company, a manufacturing company, a blue collar government contractor, and an engineering services contractor, and sometimes practices that work well for one do not work at all for another.
A perfect example is that my company offers unlimited paid leave for the flu. If an employee or anyone in their household has the flu, we do not want them to come to work, and will provide them with paid leave that does not count against their regular PTO balance. We require no documentation. Our employees do not abuse it, and it works great. That would not be true of other places I’ve worked.
My thoughts on comp time are down those exact lines. There is no sensible logic to my having to explain to our non-exempt employees that they cannot have comp time like the government employees working beside them. Or my having to explain to our non-exempt employees that, although comp time is OK for government employees, it is illegal for them. Makes no sense to them, or to me.
On that premise alone, I wholeheartedly support legislation that makes available to the private sector what has been available to the public sector for years.
However, the legislation has to be written so it provides flexibility in when and how comp time is used. In other words, it needs to work for both employers and employees. That’s my two cents, at least.
Legislation sometimes ruins what are supposed to be flexible workplace practices by taking away the flexibility of how we can use them.
Juanita Phillips, HR Director
Juanita Phillips, North Alabama SHRM Chapter and Alabama SHRM State Council Juanita Phillips testified on behalf of SHRM at an April 11 hearing on the Working Families Flexibility Act before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
Comp Time...is it right for everyone?
I’ve been an HR professional for 11 years now. That’s still “wet behind the ears” for some of you seasoned HR gurus; but, I’ve worked in two different type of industries so I’d like to weigh-in on how comp time would affect my industry now.
When I was in the retail sales business (a conglomeration of car dealerships) there were employees who would have benefited from comp time. Sometimes the sales were down both in car sales and in the service center. Frequently, employees were able to take extended lunches, or leave early or come in late. However, they would have to use up valuable vacation time to do that. The ebbs and tides of the business cycle were pretty predictable so it would have been very easy to use comp time in this industry.
Now, I’m in manufacturing. Our Exempt employees enjoy comp time. For the most part, they do take advantage of the time off and are still able to reserve their other paid leaves for traditional vacations. Of course, our exempt employees are project based and their attendance is not as critical as the production workers who make our products.
Speaking of production workers, without their labor our workflow ends; our customers are without goods, and that doesn’t bring us profits. For us, offering comp time (especially at the time and one half equivalent) would be problematic for my organization. We operate with a lean workforce and everyone matters on the production floor. Currently, we manage when production workers call out sick and we strategically plan to cover for their vacations and other protected leaves. We’ve become masters at tackling those common issues.
For the rest of the world, if comp time works for you; then, we share in your happiness of this new benefit. However, comp time for my organization would not be an option.
Monica Enrique, PHR / HR Generalist
You don’t have to Google or Bing much to find any number of news outlets and experts touting that temping is the new norm. At BWSI, our client base consists exclusively of staffing and personnel services so we are at ground zero of this “new norm”. There is an entire growing class of contingent workers who have no concept or benefit of paid time off (PTO). Of our clients, less than 5% offer PTO, and the ones that do are usually in the higher spectrum as far as compensation. The comp time bill would allow all our clients to offer compensatory time to their employees providing much needed flexibility to their workforce. The key is this comp time would be at almost no cost to the employer, save some minor bookkeeping for tracking purposes and it would have to be mutually agreeable between the employee and employer on a case-by-case basis. If you support the comp time bill, please contact your congressional delegation to encourage them to support the comp time legislation that will be introduced. If you have any questions or concerns regarding compensatory time and its benefits, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help.
Matthew Kinney, RWCS, Executive Vice-President, Research & Development BWSI
Comp Time Offers Flexibility
I work for a medium size non-profit in the state of TN. As an organization that receives the majority of its funding from government sources, we have seen many, many cuts to our funding over the last couple of years. As a result, we have to be creative and adopt a “do more with less” attitude, especially when it comes to pay and benefits. While we are not always competitive with the for-profit sector when it comes to salary, we are able to offer greater flexibility and work-life balance. The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 (H.R. 1406) would allow us to expand our ability to meet the flexibility needs of our staff and offer a greater benefit to those that need it.
The passage of this proposal would also help eliminate one of our consistent challenges. Due to the nature of our work, we frequently hire staffs that are coming from government jobs where they are accustomed to having comp time. It is often challenging to retrain work habits for people that have spent 15-20 years working in a comp-time environment. It’s frustrating for them as well and they feel a loss of benefit when they transition. It’s hard for them to understand that something they’ve done for the majority of their working life is “illegal” for the rest of the working public. I believe that passage of this bill would make it easier for us to transition our government-experienced new hires into their new jobs.
Lastly, I believe that this proposal will help professionals more easily manage the competing demands of their families, which will ultimately increase their engagement and productivity while they are at work. More and more schools are requiring additional parent engagement hours of our employees and as the baby boomers are aging, these same employees are also having to deal with the failing health and care needs of their parents. By allowing them additional flexibility in their schedules, they don’t have to spend as much of their work time worrying & stressing about how they are going to meet their family obligations.
Valerie Renfro, SPHR
What’s Good for the Goose…
I formerly worked in HR administration in a hospital for approximately ten years. One day I was opening my mail and found an envelope marked with a return address from the local office of the U.S. Department of Labor. We were notified of their investigation of a comp time practice that was being administered in one of our nursing units. I promptly contacted the Director of that unit. When we met she was more than happy to tell me about their process. Employees, mostly non-exempt, bargaining unit nursing technicians did not want to use their earned, paid leave for incidental, partial day absences, such as to attend school activities with their children, see a doctor, dentist, etc. They wanted the flexibility to work extra hours, bank that time and then use it later when the need arose. The Director had no problem with that so long as the work schedule permitted it (she was surprised to learn that was in violation of the law).
With pride, she showed me her book where employees could sign in when they worked extra hours (more than 40 in a work week) and subsequently sign those hours out as they used them. I then interviewed some of the employees. They expressed the same pleasure and satisfaction with the system. They loved being able to save their “banked” time and having the control to use it when the need arose. They also enjoyed the flexibility of saving their earned paid leave for should they need to be absent from work for an extended period.
So there we were. HR was once again the proverbial “police.” We had to tell everyone that they could not continue the comp time banks; talk about a drop in employee morale! We then spent copious hours calculating the time worked and dollars owed current and former employees.
What’s the good news in this story? We provided regular leadership development training for our management team members and maintained records of those training sessions. Some sessions included compliance with the FLSA and other employment laws. Thus, we were able to mitigate our damages and were required to provide back pay for the immediately preceding two years rather than three.
All we in the private sector are asking, for ourselves and our employees, is to be provided with the same workplace flexibility that employees working in the public sector enjoy.
Christine V. Walters, MAS, JD, SPHR
Tell US Representatives to Support Comp Time Legislation
Earlier this week, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 [H.R. 1406] was introduced in Congress by Rep. Martha Roby. This bill would do all of the following:
- Permit employers to provide compensatory time off, earned at the rate of 1.5 hours per hour of overtime worked, in lieu of overtime pay.
- Provide that any comp time program must be supported by a written agreement.
- Allow employers to exclude from any comp time program employees who have worked less than 1,000 hours in the prior 12 months.
- Cap the annual comp time allotment at 160 hours per employee.
- Require that employers pay out any unused comp time at termination.
- Permits employees to use comp time upon reasonable notice, unless it unduly disrupts the employer’s operations.
The FLSA already provides similar rights to public sector employers. It’s about time that the law is changed to provide the same rights to those in the private sector.
As an HR professional, I strongly support Rep. Roby’s comp time bill, to allow private employers to offer non-exempt employees the choice of receiving compensatory time or overtime pay in situations in which the employee is eligible for overtime.
In today’s competitive marketplace, it is increasingly difficult for a dual-income family to juggle work and family responsibilities. Compensatory time off as a workplace option gives employees more control over their time and can improve employee morale and job satisfaction and increase productivity by giving employees the choice to elect paid time off instead of cash payments.
According to the National Study of the Changing Workforce, four in five employees say workplace flexibility is important when considering a new job, but less than one in four have access to high levels of flexibility. Comp time can provide additional flexibility for private-sector employees as they negotiate their work-life responsibilities.
I also recognize that in a down economy many employees still want to receive pay as opposed to compensatory time in overtime situations. While many employees of the federal-and public-sector have that option, employees at private businesses do not. I believe employees at private businesses should be afforded the same flexibility that their federal-and public-sector counterparts enjoy to help meet their own work-family needs by allowing al employees the opportunity to have the choice between compensatory time and overtime pay.
What is your opinion about this important piece of legislation?
Tim Bonansinga J.D., SPHR
Flexibility is Important
Nearly any manager can tell you, whether they have an HR background or not, that flexibility is important to staff. Whatever the generational make-up of your workforce, we all have a life outside of work that often times we are juggling with work responsibilities and schedules trying keep everything from falling out of sync. Comp time is a great tool to help give flexibility to staff. I have had the question asked numerous times, “can I take off 2 hours for a doctor’s appointment or a kid’s school program and make it up next week?” Employees often don’t understand why that is not acceptable when it creates overtime the following week. I’ve even had employees say, “But I don’t need for it to be overtime I just want to make up my hours.” I’ve explained the FLSA rules in these situations only to be met with frustration by the employee, particularly when they have a friend that works in the public sector who gets to take advantage of the benefits of comp time.
Lisa McConnell, Director of Human Resources
Rep. Martha Roby’s Comp Time proposal Offers Employers and Employees an Option
I believe Rep. Martha Roby’s proposal to introduce a compensatory “comp” time bill for private sector employees will benefit employees and employers over the long term. Under the proposal, employers have the ability to voluntarily adopt the rule if passed and can certainly create uniform rules on usage. Fears or concerns about employees being out too long or coverage issues arising can be easily mitigated by creating clear guidelines that prevent abuses and do not impair business operations.
Employees will have an option, within the permissible limits, that we view as positive. There are times when an employee may require an extended leave, during which some of the time away is unpaid as the employee lacks sufficient sick or vacation time to cover regular pay periods during his or her absence. While we offer and encourage employees to purchase a very affordable voluntary short term disability income protection product, if the employee elected not to purchase this, and was then out unexpectedly, he or she would be impaired income wise. Currently, approved and legitimate time off needs is protected, but pay is not necessarily available. We see instances where employees return early because of pay. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it is not. We advocated for a short term insurance product to help employees if that gap were to arise. Assuming the comp time policy available to government employees is extended to the private sector, and the employee has accrued time, this would provide an option for the employer and the employee and may save money for both. Everyone wins. Retention of valued employees is a critical business need which reduces risk and enhances business continuity. Employees face child care, elder care, and personal matters regularly that sometimes require them to be away from work. If an employee can benefit from such a program, and the comp time process is well managed by the employer, it will add value.
Hickory Hills, Ill.
Rep. Roby's Comp Time Bill: A Great Solution
I have worked in a public sector position which allowed for the tracking and management of compensatory “comp” time. Now working as a Human Resource Director in the private sector, I long for this flexible, win-win solution for the betterment of the employees, the managers and the business. We currently have a small but very dedicated number of hourly employees who will do a little extra off the clock when issues arise after they’ve clocked out. We obviously want this time tracked and compensated. Yet those few extra minutes here and there are often lost on the employee when we pay them, due to deductions. As an alternative, when we add them up in the form of compensatory time, a few minutes here and there can quickly build up to a precious hour that a parent can take off early to make a child’s game, or provide care when they’re sick. In the case of employees who don’t have dependents, that extra compensatory time off might take the form of starting their vacation a little early. Both are perceived to be much more valuable than an extra hour or so of pay. Our loyal, committed employees deserve the flexibility to be afforded comp time.
Please – help us enable our dedicated workforce and well-intended managers, by supporting this legislation. Help us manage and control our overtime budgets, by allowing us to openly and fairly track actual hours worked, and reward our committed employees by affording them earned time off, during a window that’s convenient for both the employer and the employee.
Sue Neal, HR Director
Comp Bill Equals Positive Impact on US businesses, small and not-for-profit employers
The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 (H.R. 1406) introduced by Martha Roby (R-AL) would have a significant positive impact on the most important of US businesses, small and not-for-profit employers.
As an HR consultant to many small businesses and a number of small not-for-profit organizations I regularly hear from employers about their desire to offer comp time or overtime as an option to their employees.
Small employers often struggle to be able to offer benefits and to pay overtime because they have limited resources. More importantly, their employees often prefer time off rather than more pay.
The not-for-profit organizations have a really hard time with this issue. Because of the events and meetings they have related to fundraising or board meetings which are usually held outside the regular work hours to accommodate funders and volunteer board members, their staff may work more than 40 hours in a particular week. They struggle to juggle schedules to avoid OT but need staff to do prep work during the work day and be at the event/meeting in the evening or on the weekend. If they could offer comp time the employees would be happier being able to take some time off after a hard week and the employer would not be burdened with OT payments.
Not-for-profit organizations provide support for the arts, protection of the environment, and more importantly, the poor, disabled, weak in our society. Their success makes the country a better place.
More importantly, I find that many of my small employers think they can and in some cases actually offer comp time now! When I educate them about the limitations and they make changes, the results include financial burdens and more importantly employee morale issues.
Finally, many small and not-for-profit organizations are competing for talented young professionals with organizations that can pay more. Since studies show that Y-Gen/Millenials prefer time off vs. more pay, if they can offer comp time they can be more competitive.
Phyllis G. Hartman, SPHR