By: James Maguire

The benefits that individuals receive from their employer play a crucial part in balancing work, family, and medical related issues. Benefits such as paid leave and sick days allow for the average employee to take care of medical and personal issues, while meeting their work responsibilities.[1] Yet, unlike the rest of the world, the United States has no federal mandate for paid sick leave or maternity leave for employees.[2] This leaves groups like working parents and low income workers in a difficult position.[3] In cases where an employer does not provide these benefits, employees have had to make significant sacrifices such as going to work while sick to make ends meet.[4] This issue has been constantly questioned and debated by politicians during elections seasons, but yet not much has changed.[5] The Workflex in the 21st Act may provide the change that is desperately needed.[6]

On November 2, 2017, Congresswoman Mimi Walters of California proposed this Act with the intention to ease the burden on employees who are facing serious personal or medical issues at any particular time.[7] The framework is setup to allow employers to “ voluntarily choose” whether to join the plan.[8] This plan would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) by “providing participating employers flexibility and predictability in designing workflex offerings.”[9] Further, this bill will set the minimum standards for leave based on “the size of an employer and the employee’s length of service.”[10] If an employer does decide to join the plan, the plan would provide paid leave to all employees, both full-time and part-time, and the option to participate in one of the six flexible work scheduling options. [11] For example, a compressed schedule allows an employer to increase the number of hours an employee would work in a week, and in return the employee would have a four day workweek.[12] By signing this into law, millions of Americans would be given access to workplace flexibility for the first time.[13]

The structure and opportunity to have a federal framework on paid leave will benefit employers greatly.[14] At the moment, there are seven states and over thirty jurisdictions that have implemented their own paid sick leave laws.[15] Since this plan is a part of ERISA, it will pre-empt any state and local paid leave and workflex laws.[16] Secondly, the standard of basing paid leave on the size of the employer’s workforce and length of service by the employee will prevent employers from attempting to offset the additional costs or possibly eliminating other benefits. [17] In addition, the workflex options an employer can provide will promote continuous production of work throughout the day and do away with the standard nine to five workday – implementing telecommunicating will allow employees to focus on their work in a non-traditional setting and at the same time give employees the control of how they want to plan their workday.[18]

It is important to note that this proposal is in its early stages and the White House has yet to comment its position. [19] With that said, it is undeniable that this proposal will have a major impact on work-life balance for all employees and finally provide a federal standard on paid leave in the United States.[20]


[1] Robin Madell, 6 Things Employees Should Know About the Family and Medical Leave Act, U.S. News (June 26, 2017, 11:47 AM), https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/articles/2017-06-26/6-things-employees-should-know-about-the-family-and-medical-leave-act.

[2] Danielle Kurtzleben, Lots of Other Countries Mandate Paid Leave. Why Not the U.S.?, NPR (July 15, 2015), https://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/07/15/422957640/lots-of-other-countries-mandate-paid-leave-why-not-the-us.

[3] Nikki Graf, Why workers don’t always take family or medical leave when they need to, Pew Research Ctr. (Apr. 4, 2017), http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/04/why-workers-dont-always-take-family-or-medical-leave-when-they-need-to/.

[4] Austin Frakt,, The High Costs of Not Offering Paid Sick Leave, N.Y. Times (Oct. 31, 2016),


[5] Kathryn Vasel, Democrats to Trump: Act on Paid Family Leave, CNN (Mar. 14, 2017),


[6] It’s Time for More Flexible Options, Hr Proffesional Mag. (last visited Nov. 21, 2017),


[7] Workflex in the 21st Century Act, H.R. 4219, 115th Cong. (2017).

[8] Id.

[9] Fact Sheet: Workflex in the 21st Century Act, The Soc’y for Hum. Resource Mgmt. (Nov. 2, 2017), https://www.shrm.org/about-shrm/press-room/press-releases/pages/fact-sheet-workflex-bill.aspx.

[10] Workflex in the 21st Century Act, H.R. 4219, 115th Cong. (2017).

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] What You Need to Know: Workflex in the 21st Century Act, Youtube, (Nov. 20, 2017), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fygf7ZJ08jc.

[14]Rep. Mimi Walters Introduces New Workplace Flexibility Legislation, Congresswoman Mimi Walters (Nov. 2, 2017), https://walters.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-mimi-walters-introduces-new-workplace-flexibility-legislation .

[15] Workflex in the 21st Century Act: Q&A, The Soc’y for Hum. Resource Mgmt. (July 21, 2017), http://cqrcengage.com/shrm/file/QfEM9IyU7XM/Workflex%20Legislative%20Q&A%207-24-17%20FINAL.pdf.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18]SHRM-Supported Bill to Expand Paid Leave and Flexibility for All Employees Introduced in House, Business Wire (Nov. 2, 2017), http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171102006448/en/SHRM-Supported-Bill-Expand-Paid-Leave-Flexibility-Employees .

[19] Federal Paid Leave Proposal Introduced In Congress, Fisher Phillps (Nov. 3, 2017), https://www.fisherphillips.com/resources-alerts-federal-paid-leave-proposal-introduced-in-congress.

[20] HR Policy- Supported Work Flexibility Bill Introduced, HR Pol’y Ass’n (Nov. 3, 2017), http://www.hrpolicy.org/news/story/hr-policy-supported-work-flexibility-bill-introduced-13951.



  1. […] say it will “circumvent state and local laws designed to protect working people,” while advocates say it will “finally provide a federal standard on paid leave in the United […]

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