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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