Take this test to see if your company is family-friendly

September 18, 1997|By Jo Ellen Barnhart

Is your company family-friendly? More and more Americans are asking this question. But the answer is a tough one to find as the definition of a family-friendly workplace varies from company to company.

Here's a quick checklist of 25 features and benefits considered family-friendly. The checklist was devised in part by San Diego Union-Tribune and in part by The Center for Family Friendly Cities of The United Kingdom.

Take the quiz yourself, or better yet, make a copy of it for your boss.

1. Equal pay for equal work. Paying women less than men for comparable work hurts children - particularly children of single, working mothers.

2. A fair wage for office and clerical workers that reflects the actual cost of living.

3. Overtime regulations that prevent abuse of salaried workers.

4. Job Sharing. Typically, two part-time employees work to fulfill the requirements of a full-time job.

5. Flexible work hours. Like business schedules, family schedules need adjusting to handle the flow of family demands of school, child care or elder care.


6. Compressed work weeks.

7. Work at home, when appropriate.

8. Satellite offices close to home to reduce commuting time and increase family time.

9. Two weeks or more of paid vacation. (In the U.S. the average yearly vacation is 10 days. In Denmark, Austria, Sweden, and Brazil, the averageis 30 days.)

10. Volunteer time. A few hours each month, preferably paid, to volunteer or visit schools, child-care or elder-care facilities.

11. Release time for family emergencies.

12. Temporary emergency child/elder care.

13. Appropriate training and support for managers responsible for designing and implementing family-friendly policies and for employees moving toward family-friendly working arrangements.

14. Provide baby-changing and feeding facilities for visitors if your premises are open to the public.

15. Review procedures such as selection and promotion criteria to ensure that barriers are not present to those wanting to balance home and work responsibilities.

16. Assistance for traveling employees to balance home and work responsibilities.

17. Health insurance for all family members (adoption aid included) with preventive health measures, including well child care and wellness programming.

18. A benefits cafeteria so employees may select options needed, such as child-care reimbursement, more vacation days, health insurance and adoption aid. A two-income family may defer a redundant health plan and choose benefits like adoption, child care or elder care.

19. Pretax accounts for dependent care.

20. On-site child/elder care.

21. Company voucher payments for child care or company sponsorship of off-site child-care facilities.

22. Company help in finding quality child care through networks, such as Western Maryland Child Care Resource Center, that identify and teach how to locate good child-care providers.

23. A career break plan. This idea is imported from Lombard Central, aLondon finance house, which permits parents with two years' employment to apply for an extended unpaid leave to care for babies and toddlers. A typical leave lasts five years.

24. College tuition assistance.

25. Paid family leave to attend to the birth/adoption of a child, death of a family member, or other life-altering matters.

These 25 options are NOT the only ways for companies to be labeled as family-friendly. More creative options, such as an employee hotline or sick leave bank are not listed. Add a point for each family-friendly benefit you can identify.

A score of 15 or more, consider your company family-friendly.

A score of 10 to 14, your company is family-ambivalent.

A score of fewer than nine, your company is family-unfriendly.

Jo Ellen Barnhart is the working mother of three boys. She is a freelance writer and owner of a home-based marketing and public relations business.

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