SF Chamber: Legislation Mandating Greater Work Schedule Flexibility For Parents “doesn’t send the right message”

Employees in San Francisco who are parents or caregivers could soon have the right to request a more flexible and predictable work schedule via legislation proposed today at the city’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The legislation was introduced by board president David Chiu and would go in front of voters on the city’s ballot this November if the supervisors approve it.

Under the proposal, employees with parental or caregiver responsibilities would have the right to request the different work schedules. Employers would then be required to respond in writing outlining “undue hardship” reasons if they decided to deny a request.

The law would be enforced by the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, which would handle any appeals or disputes between employee and employer.

Chiu said the legislation was a response to changing social mores that have seen an increasing number of families with two working parents or a single parent in recent decades.

San Francisco also has seen many families flee the city—only 13.5 percent of its residents are children, the lowest percentage of any major city in the country, Chiu said.

He said similar laws have been passed in the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and “have increased worker satisfaction, loyalty and productivity.”

Supervisor Eric Mar, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said he is a father and understands the need to work flexible hours.

Mar said along with helping to keep families in the city, the legislation would help to decrease traffic by reducing the number of car trips during peak commute hours.

He said the ordinance could be an example “that will be followed by many other cities.”

However, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is already voicing opposition to the proposal because of its potential impact to the city’s business community.

Chamber president Bob Linscheid said Chiu did not reach out to the business advocacy group before announcing the legislation.

“We were a little bit surprised,” Linscheid said.

He said “our companies in San Francisco already do a pretty good job of providing flexible hours” and that the legislation “doesn’t send the right message to the business community.”

Mayor Ed Lee said he understood the concerns of both the business and labor advocates and said he would wait until seeing a final version of the legislation before forming an opinion because “the devil’s in the details.”

Chiu said he looked forward to discussing the legislation with the various stakeholders and noted that businesses with under 10 employees would be exempt, as would employees who have not worked for a company for at least six months.

Kelly Dwyer, who is pregnant and already has a 3-year-old child, said she was in favor of the proposal.
“Having this option would really benefit families who shouldn’t have to choose between staying home or going to work,” Dwyer said.

If the proposal will go in front of voters in November, the full board will have to vote by its July 30 meeting to put it on the ballot, according to Chiu’s office.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News