Flex time: Putting families first

Given the choice, many working parents in Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District would gladly trade overtime pay for time off to allow them to spend more time with their families. But unless these working moms and dads are government employees, they do not have that option. The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, passed by the U.S. House and awaiting action in the U.S. Senate, addresses that situation by giving working families the opportunity to prioritize quality family time while still providing for their families.

One of the concerns expressed by many Fourth District working parents is how difficult it is to balance their family needs with the responsibilities of the workplace. Working moms and dads often agonize over their inability to attend a child’s Awards Assembly at school, or spend time with an aging parent who undergoes surgery, or to stay home with a sick child. There is a solution: allowing parents the option of flex time.

Flex time involves applying overtime hours to paid time off from work rather than receiving overtime pay. It is a concept that public sector employees have enjoyed since 1985, but private sector employees have not. It is not fair that a parent who works for the federal government can use overtime hours to be with a sick child and still get paid while a person who works for a local small business cannot. It is not right that a single mom who works for a local company has to miss her son's soccer game while her neighbor who works for state government gets to cheer on her child from the sidelines. It is not right that federal laws create two different systems for work rules, separating families and creating heartache. It is time to update our federal laws to make them fair for all families.

The Working Families Flexibility Act addresses these disparities and gives ALL employees equal opportunity to prioritize family. An important aspect of the flex option for private-sector employers is that it is voluntary - just as it is currently for public sector employees. No employees or employers will be forced to participate but they will at least have the option. This is important to families. It is also important for employers wanting to provide this benefit to employees but presently cannot do so. Everyone should have the opportunity to accumulate overtime for future paid days off when needed. It is a "win-win" for everyone.

Spending time with family and being there for those big occasions in life makes a difference in the life of a child. Why should the government stand in the way of those moments by prohibiting flex time - especially since it has allowed it for state and federal employees since 1985?

I'm proud to support this common sense solution. It is time to update our laws to prioritize people by providing a fair overtime system so that ALL employees can spend quality time with family away from the workplace.

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler represents Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District. She serves on the House Budget, Armed Services, and Agriculture Committees.