Happy Employees = Happy State. The Case for Flexible Benefits


I love my job, and I adore the fact it’s flexible. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve had to leave work early for illness, a doctor’s appointment, or to take care of car repairs. Someday, if I decide to have children, I’m sure I will value my flexible job even more.

Unfortunately for many North Carolina women, flexibility like mine is more of a dream than a privilege.

In the last few sessions, our state legislature has passed policies that alienate many types of families. A recent cut to after school care subsidies means families with two earners now have to scramble to find affordable care at  3 pm when their child gets out of school. Many times they will have to leave work early.

Perhaps more importantly, we don’t have same-sex family protection. Although the United States grants rights and privileges to all married couples,  as of now North Carolina doesn’t recognize same-sex families — a problem when it comes to life insurance, hospital visits, and second parent adoption.

On top of that, North Carolina has a low minimum wage, no sick leave policy, and completely unfunded family leave. As more and more states institute these family-first policies, North Carolina gets left in the dust.  Many companies want to come to North Carolina, but reports show they worry about attracting top workers to a state that doesn’t put families first.

It’s clear: to attract more jobs and more workers, North Carolina needs more family friendly policies.

A great start would be policies that guaranteed sick time off (as we saw in California last week), paid family and medical leave, and a guarantee to negotiate flexible hours without fear of retribution.

Family-friendly work policies don’t just support employees and their dependents. They make North Carolina a healthier state. These practices increase productivity and employee retention. For example, when Google offered five-month family leave to their employees, the rate of women employees leaving the company decreased by half.

After the White House Summit on Working Families in July, President Obama wrote an op-ed where he said, “Family leave, child care, flexibility, and a decent wage aren’t frills. They are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.”

I agree. Care for the family requires more than just a paycheck. It can mean showing up at a PTA meeting in the afternoon, taking the morning off to take your child to the doctor, or leaving a few minutes early to attend a school play. People are our state’s most important asset, and North Carolina must first invest in our people if we want more jobs.

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