In an age of technology enabling new ways to conduct business anywhere on a smartphone and work-from-home opportunities for many workers, it can be difficult to disconnect and get away from your business or job. If you are trying to open a new business or keep a small-business going, it can be especially stressful to even think about taking time off or having employees take time off. The worries about who will pick up the slack or how can the business afford it are powerful concerns.
Recently, there have been some federal and state proposals to mandate that employers provide their workers with more opportunity to take job-protected paid time off that would essentially expand the Family Medical Leave Act. Simply put, FMLA already provides workers with job-protected leave that is unpaid for a personal or family member illness or after a baby is born.
Here in Colorado, there is a proposal that would have every worker pay several dollars a week from their paycheck to fund a program that would allow workers to apply for all or a portion of their wages to be paid by the program if they need to take time off for maternity/paternity leave, an illness, or other similar circumstance. The program would pay a portion of the workers normal income that would be higher for low-wage workers, and a lower portion for higher-wage workers. The idea is that it would be a way for more employees to get access to paid time off, without burdening businesses, especially small-businesses, with the cost of paying the worker while they are gone.
However, it seems that most businesses and business groups oppose the measure, citing the administrative costs in managing the deductions and payroll with such a program and the challenges associated with finding temporary replacements for employees on job-protected leave. Businesses also fear that if the paycheck deductions are insufficient to fund the program, that businesses will end up covering any deficits.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are many companies and small-businesses that say that their workers already have access to these kinds of benefits. They say that they make sure that their employees get the time they need through a time off plan that suits their employer-employee relationship on a more individualized level.
Another interesting approach is one from a Denver-based tech company, FullContact. They have an extraordinary vacation policy that they call “Paid, PAID Vacation.” With this approach, they give their employees a minimum of 15 days of vacation with full pay every year, but they also give each employee $7,500 to pay for the vacation itself. The only catch for getting the bonus is that employees must actually go on vacation, they must “disconnect,” and they cannot work during this time off. Part of the inspiration for this program came when the CEO and founder was on vacation in Egypt. He was riding on a camel, in Egypt, with the Pyramids in view, and he was staring at his smartphone. There is a framed photo commemorating this moment at the company’s office. The company has called it a “giant experiment” that is designed to reward their employees and also help the company through benefits like increased productivity and employee retention. FullContact has had this program since 2012, so it looks like the company is satisfied with the results of this experiment.
If your business has questions about laws covering employee time off or about having an employee handbook or policies drafted with legal issues in mind, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Attorney, Elizabeth Lewis, at 720-258-6647 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.