Fairness Cited in Implementation of Workplace Flexibility Practices

Many employers are creating flexible work arrangements, and some are adopting these programs for specific segments of the workforce. Still, many employers using these arrangements develop them for all employees out of a sense of fairness, according to new Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) research.

“Organizations recognize the necessity to meet the needs of specific groups of employees, but they tend to do this by designing the optimal arrangements that meet the needs of the great number of diverse groups,” said Mark Schmit, SHRM vice president for research. “However, most organizations also recognize the need to consider specific employee needs on a case-by-case basis.”

The research report, “Workplace Flexibility for Select Populations,” was conducted in collaboration with the Families and Work Institute and researchers from Portland State University and Clemson University. The researchers found that 90% of organizations that employ veterans said they have not created or implemented flexible work arrangements specifically for employees who are veterans. When asked about the main obstacles to implementing flexibility for veterans, the top reason, as cited by 35% of respondents, was ensuring equal treatment for all employees.

The majority of organizations also had not created flexibility programs specifically for:

  • • Parents with responsibilities for dependent care (68% of organizations said they had not); and
  • • Low-wage ($15.50 an hour or less) and hourly workers (75% of organizations that employ this type of worker).


In these cases, “ensuring equal treatment for all employees” was again the primary reason. Other reasons cited included ensuring that work is done and the impracticality of such arrangements given the nature of jobs.

Flexible work arrangements have been created by some organizations to accommodate segments of the workforce, including disabled workers (47% of organizations that hire the disabled have created flexible work arrangements specifically for them). Reduced work hours, flextime, and telecommuting are the most common flexible work arrangement for employees with disabilities.

But Schmit noted, “the survey results identify an opportunity for employers to better use workplace flexibility programs to recruit and retain top employees and to address the growing skills gap. Veterans and the disabled, for example, have unique skills to bring to the workplace. They just need flexibility.”

Among other findings:

  • • 95% of organizations have not made any special effort to ask fathers what they need in terms of workplace flexibility.
  • • The most common flexible work arrangements provided to low-wage and hourly employees include flextime (61%), shift flexibility (59%), break arrangements (51%), and leave for care giving (51%).

SHRM’s Workplace Flexibility for Select Populations research surveyed 509 randomly selected HR professionals in February 2012. To download a PowerPoint summary of the findings, click here.

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