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As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to highlight OPM’s commitment to ensuring that all women -- and men -- are offered the flexibilities they need to be productive, satisfied members of the Federal workforce. OPM encourages agencies to help their employees balance the needs of their lives inside and outside of work.
In January, the President signed a memorandum titled, Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity. It directs agencies to advance Federal workers up to six weeks paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member. In his State of the Union address, the President also called on Congress to enact legislation to provide Federal workers with up to six weeks of paid parental leave.
The President’s memorandum builds on this past June’s White House Summit on Working Families, an event that explored a variety of issues important to working families, including workplace flexibility. OPM is contributing to these efforts by developing a handbook on Leave for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care. I believe it is important for Federal employees and their managers to fully understand our policies related to family life events. We do not want women to feel that they must choose between their responsibilities to their family and their obligations to their careers.
To develop the handbook, we are partnering with Federal agencies to gather information on existing workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. OPM is asking agency leave experts to identify common questions and misconceptions. This summer, we will analyze the data we receive and send a report to the President. This document will describe best practices, barriers, and limitations in achieving work-life balance. It also will suggest possible solutions to roadblocks that working families encounter.
OPM has long had in place policies that make it easier for women to meet their full career potential. We’ve created flexible work schedules, expanded sick leave to include caring for family members who are ill, developed telework policies, and come closer to eliminating the gender pay gap.
Sensible workplace polices like these are an integral part of OPM’s Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion – or REDI – roadmap. REDI provides agencies with the tools to attract, hire, promote, and retain top talent for the Federal government and build a model workforce now, and the future.
Our work-life policies are continually evolving to make the balance of caring for families and pursuing a career complementary, rather than contradictory. The women who have come before us have set an incredible example of dedicated Federal service. We hope to honor their contributions by doing all that we can to meet the needs of women today.
As we begin this year’s Labor Day celebration, I want to take a minute to thank each and every member of our Federal family for your hard work and for the excellent service you provide the American people. One way for us to honor your efforts is to make sure you have the flexibilities you need to help balance your life at work and at home.
From the moment he took office, President Obama has promoted and supported the kind of flexible benefits that will help us recruit, empower and retain a world class Federal workforce. During the historic White House summit on Working Families on June 23, the President signed a memorandum outlining his vision for such a workplace culture.
OPM recently issued guidance to Federal agencies to make sure that we deliver on the President’s vision.
Workplace flexibilities go beyond the traditional annual leave, sick leave and family and medical leave. Working with their supervisors, Federal employees have the right to request alternative work schedules, job-sharing, telework, part-time work and leave transfer programs.
Our memorandum reminds agencies that they “must not create arbitrary and unnecessary barriers” that would keep employees from asking to take advantage of workplace flexibilities. And I will be asking agencies to report to me about what best practices they are using to create a culture and workplace environment that supports the use of these programs. I also want agencies to report any barriers that may unnecessarily restrict the use of these flexibilities so we can work together to remove obstacles.
The bottom line is, I don’t want Federal employees to worry about retaliation when they seek work schedule flexibilities. And we want to make sure agencies have the procedures and policies in place to create a culture that allows employees to feel comfortable making requests.
We talk a lot here about employee morale and how to best create a workplace where employees feel engaged and appreciated. What better way for us to show our appreciation for the incredible work our 2 million-strong, talented workforce does than to be sensitive to the tug employees often feel between their desire to do their jobs and the need to take care of a family situation or emergency.
What’s more, these flexibilities are not just good for employees. I know that if you believe, when a family emergency comes up, that your manager will bend over backwards to accommodate you, you will go the extra mile when a critical situation arises at work.
We are one Federal family. We need to look out for each other, help each other and trust each other to do the best for the American people we serve.
Enjoy your well-deserved Labor Day holiday!
I was honored to speak at the White House Summit on Working Families. The conference, co-hosted by the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, brought together business and labor leaders, economists, policy makers, advocates and everyday citizens to discuss policy solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of working families and ensure America’s global competitiveness in the coming decades.
At the conference, President Obama unveiled his memorandum designed to enhance workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. The President also directed OPM to work with agencies to promote the use of such programs, ranging from telework to alternative work schedules to leave programs. OPM will be responsible for assessing agency programs, educating employees and their managers, and promoting a culture that encourages and supports these flexibilities.
I participated in a panel called the Structure of the Workplace. It focused on the importance of having workplace flexibilities and what they mean to employees. Here’s just one example: When employees know that their boss will bend over backwards to accommodate them when a family emergency comes up, then they will be willing to go the extra mile when a critical situation arises at work. The result? Happier and more productive employees. That’s the culture we need.
With the President’s encouragement and through our partnership with the agencies, we will work to remove barriers that exist in fostering that culture. And every Federal employee will be an integral part of making it happen.
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