Stringer Calls For City to Pass Right to Request Legislation

Stringer Calls For City to Pass Right to Request Legislation

Stringer Calls For City to Pass "Right to Request" Legislation
June 16, 2014

Scott Stringer knows all too well the scheduling headaches that come with working a high intensity job and raising a young family, and he wants the New York City business community to do something about it. 

Stringer, the city comptroller and father of two small boys, was joined by his wife, Elyse Buxbaum, City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic in front of City Hall to call on the city to take up "Right to Request" legislation that would create a mechanism for workers and employers to discuss workplace flexibility options, and provide specific procedures to address employee requests. This public rallying cry was accompanied by a report released by Stringer's Bureau of Policy and Research that highlighted data in support of flexible work schedules, as well as real-world examples of how flexible work arrangements have been utilized acround the country.

Stringer said that this issue was "very personal" for him and Buxbaum, whose employer allowed her to shift to a different position in the company so she could better structure her schedule around caring for their two boys, Max, 2, and Miles, 1. 

"What we’re really saying is we want to create a platform for a space where an employee can come to an employer and have the conversation about what’s in the best interest of the employee, but also how that decision by the employer can strengthen the company," Stringer said. "If you look at the data, it’s pretty clear that if we’re going to be competitive in the 21st century in the City of New York, we’re going to have to start thinking differently about our ever-changing workforce." 

Stringer's report cites statistics such as the fact that 75 percent of employees report not having enough time to spend with their children, and that 65 percent of caregivers reported that they have to shift their arrival or departure time or take time off from work to care for loved ones. Research also shows that flexible work arrangements reduce employee stress, encourage healthier lifestyles, and improve the long-term health of employees.

Aetna, one of the country's largest health insurers, was named by the comptroller's office as an example of a business that has embraced telecommuting in recent years, saving the company $78 million in real estate costs alone. Other studiies show that companies can save an average of $6,500 annually for every person who telecommutes once a week—largely through decreased employee turnover and energy/IT savings.

However, there is a fear among employees that should they approach their employer to request a flexible work arrangement, that it could affect their employment standing, or their prospects for upward mobility. For this reason, Stringer said, it is important to have a procedure in place that allows employees safeguards to discuss their workplace schedules.

Stringer emphasized the importance of having a dialogue with the city's business community, and made it clear that the call for flexible work arrangements was not meant to be punitive—which is one of the reasons he is not calling for a "Right to Request" mandate. Several business owners were in attendance at the press conference, including a representative from Ryan Accounting, a global tax service firm that instituted an organization-wide policy of no defined work schedule, no minimum hours, and no requirement that work be done in the office. Instead, it developed software for tracking performance measures like client reviews, revenues and leadership.

"We used to measure performance on how many hours people physically worked in the office," said Jerry Lynch, who leads Ryan's New York office. "We changed that model and turned it over completely and gave our workforce enough flexibility for results measured and by doing that and creating that flexibility, every one of our performance measures increased."

Cumbo, who chairs the Council's Women's Issues Committee, and Rozic plan to introduce legislation on the city and state level, respectively, to create a "Right to Request" law. Stringer said the Council bill would receive public hearings, and that he hoped that more businesses would get involved in helping to create an approach to "Right to Request" in the meantime.

Nick Powell