Berkeley Flexible Work Time Initiative



About Us



Work Time and
the Environment

Work Time and
the Family

Work Time and
the Good Life

Work Time and Economics

Work Time Choice
is a Success

Work Time Choice: Model Policies


Classic Essays

Leaflet [PDF]

Initiative Text



About This Initiative


This initiative, Measure Q on the November 2014 Berkeley ballot, calls on the city of Berkeley to:

  • Pass a right-to-request law. According to this sort of law:
    • Employees can request shorter hours and other flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting or compressed schedules.
    • Employers can refuse by giving a business reason that the arrangement is not feasible. Refusals cannot be appealed.
    • Small businesses would be exempt.
  • Write letters to the federal and state governments asking them to pass right-to-request laws that cover all employees, with small businesses exempted.

This sort of right-to-request law has been successful in the United Kingdom, where employers grant the great majority of requests. More forceful laws have been successful in the Netherlands and Germany, where employers must accommodate these requests unless they can prove it will create operational problems

Right-to-request laws are now moving to the United States:

  • In 2007, this sort of law was introduced in Congress, and co-sponsors included then-senator from Illinois Barack Obama and then-senator from New York Hillary Clinton.
  • In 2013, Vermont and San Francisco passed this sort of law.
  • In June 2014, during the summit on families, President Obama issued an executive order applying this policy to Federal government employees.

Benefits of Flexible Work Time

If the United States allowed more part-time work, we could have:

  • A Cleaner Environment: If people choose to work less and consume less, they will pollute less (all else being equal).  If Americans worked as few hours as western Europeans, it would lower our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the reduction would become larger with time.
  • Stronger Families: Our standard 40-hour week dates back to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, when families were expected to have stay-at-home mothers. Today, 63% of American families with children have no stay-at-home parent, and 90% of those families say it is hard for them to balance work and family obligations. Today's parents need more flexibility than father needed 75 years ago.
  • More Well Paid Jobs: People in well paid jobs would be more likely to work shorter hours, because they can afford it, so employers would need more people to do this work.
    • In the Netherlands, they say that increased part-time work was the main cause of the "Dutch employment miracle," when unemployment fell from 13% in the mid-1980s to 6.7% in 1996, the lowest level in Western Europe at the time. .
    • In the United States, if the federal government's civilian employees could choose their work hours, and if they chose to work as much as the average German employee, this change alone would create almost one-half million jobs, at a much lower cost than any other federal jobs program.
  • More Satisfying Lives: People would choose to work shorter hours only if they thought it would improve their lives. This is most important for caregivers, but it can also improve the quality of life of people who want to semi-retire or who just want more time for their own interests.

Despite all these benefits, 80% of American workers have no real choice of hours, according to economist Juliet Schor.  Their only choice is a full-time job or a much lower paying part-time job.

Because of global warming and other ecological threats, many of us feel that we should consume less in order to protect the world's environment. Yet most people do not even have the option of downshifting economically by working shorter hours - choosing to have more free time instead of more stuff.

Do Not Burden Business

To avoid making flexible work time a burden on business, we recommend that flexible work time policies should:

  • Exempt Small Businesses: In most small businesses, the owner does all the hiring and firing. Dealing with employees who request rescheduling would be a hardship for these already-overworked business owners. Public hearings will give small businesses the opportunity to state their concerns, and the city should set a threshold that exampts small businesses that flexible work time would be a hardship for.
  • Pro-Rate Benefits: If part-time employees got the same benefits as full-time, it would raise labor costs. We recommend pro-rating benefits: for example, half-time employees would get half of the standard benefits from the employer, and the employee would pay for the rest. The employee could not cut hours as much, but pro-rating is useful to protect both employers and employees. Obamacare requires employers to provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours per week or more, and it would be best if employees who cut their hours to less than this still get pro-rated health benefits.

With these protections, this policy will help businesses. Corporate Voices for Working Families found that American businesses with more flexible work policies report improved employee satisfaction, morale, and teamwork, and better employee health, well-being, and resilience. Flexibility makes for more productive workers.


balance logo

email us

Follow Us

join our email list




Full Employment and Full Enjoyment!