Guest op-ed: The modern family and the fight for a 21st century workplace

“I hesitated to have a second child because there is no paid maternity leave at my current company.”

Those were the words of a full-time working mom in Brooklyn Heights—one of over 1,100 New Yorkers who recently took a survey from my office about workplace policies in the five boroughs.

The results of the survey show that the need to reshape the 21st century workplace could not be more urgent, with a clarion call for “right to request” legislation, paid family leave and advance notification of schedules.

Forty five percent of respondents reported not having access to flexible work arrangements. Of those, more than three-quarters (77 percent) said their lives would be “more manageable” if such policies were in place.

Furthermore, among those workers at companies where FWA’s were not widely available, 58 percent reported being “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” requesting a flexible schedule. That’s why I support New York City Council legislation that would allow employees to seek flexible schedules, without fear of retaliation.

In addition, the survey showed how a lack of paid family leave has had a profound impact on New York families. While the majority of respondents have had to take time off work to care for loved ones at various times, only 11 percent took paid family leave and nearly a quarter were forced to take unpaid leave.

No New Yorker should ever have to choose between holding down a job and taking care of loved ones. Luckily, there is a solution we can enact right here in the Empire State—a paid family leave system that would be funded by employee payroll deductions of no more than 45 cents a week in the first year.

Eighty percent of respondents supported such a system, with 86 percent believing that fathers and mothers deserve an equal amount of paid family leave.

Lastly, we must address last-minute scheduling practices that too often prevent shift workers from securing child care, engaging in job training and higher education, and being able to care for their families.

Nearly 20 percent of shift workers in our survey received their schedule with only one day of notice. That’s hurting Gotham’s families and our economy.

I’ve called on the Council to pass a law requiring that workers receive their schedule at least 72 hours in advance of their shift.
Whether it is providing a more equitable workplace for women, ensuring that business can secure talent, or enabling New Yorkers to better themselves through education, the conclusion is clear: government and the private sector must embrace family-friendly workplace policies as critical components of New York City’s economic competitiveness in the 21st century.

Scott M. Stringer is the comptroller of the City of New York

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