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Work Benefits More Flexible, Study Shows

Associated Press

More companies are making work schedules and benefit programs more flexible, providing financial aid for child-care costs and giving employees more options on time off to deal with family-related activities, the Conference Board said Wednesday.

However, while an increasing number of companies have “family-supportive” programs, they are not yet found throughout the country, the business-sponsored research group said.

Many are pilot programs limited to white-collar employees or to specified divisions within a company, the board said.

Most of the companies that do have innovative personnel programs have relatively high proportions of young, female, technically skilled and non-union workers. These concerns are also often found in industries facing intense competition for certain skills, it said.

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“The business community has become increasingly sensitive to the new demographics of the work force. This awareness, brought into sharp focus with the maturing of the Baby Boom generation and accompanying changes in attitudes toward work, has significantly altered work-family and employer-employee relationships,” said Helen Axel, director of the board’s work and family information center.

Dual-earning families, single parents and unmarried couples are forming “a new employee constituency,” the report said.

Today’s family units often are unwilling or unable to be “the silent, compliant support systems” that families once were, the director said. Workers themselves also are said to be more reluctant to subordinate their personal lives to their jobs, she said.

New programs allow employees to select their own working hours each day or stagger starting and quitting times. In addition, companies are allowing employees to chose from “cafeteria-style benefits.” For example, an employee could choose less health-care coverage and more paid time off.

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