National Partnership for Women & Families

National Dialogue Sheds Light on the Ways Inflexible Workplaces Penalize Workers in Higher Education

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
Washington, D.C. — May 4, 2011 —
"Our nation’s colleges and universities serve as a launching pad for the next generation of leaders and innovators. Yet, many of those who work in higher education suffer because workplace flexibility is inadequate and unequal policies make it difficult for them to meet the dual demands of work and family. The Obama administration’s focus on these issues at today’s National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility event in Boston is a welcome and important step in raising and addressing these problems.

It is essential to address workplace flexibility in higher education, both because so many workers are directly affected and because policies at our nation’s universities and colleges can often influence trends throughout the country. Both faculty and staff members deserve schedules and policies that enable them to care for their families without sacrificing their economic security. Yet only 68 percent of workers at these institutions have access to policies like paid sick days that provide the most basic kind of flexibility, and only 14 percent can take paid family leave to deal with a serious illness or care for a new child.

For staff, who are often paid much less and offered fewer benefits, inflexibility can have serious consequences. Those without access to basic paid sick days are forced to choose between staying home and losing a days’ pay, or going to work sick and spreading illness to other staff, faculty and students. As we saw during the H1N1 outbreak, illnesses can spread rapidly on college campuses, having a ripple effect on larger communities. Giving staff the flexibility to stay home when sick should be common sense.

The National Partnership for Women & Families is pleased that the Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau continue to show their commitment to achieving more flexible workplace policies through this series. Discussions like these shed light on the need for real-life policy initiatives to meet the needs of today’s families. We look forward to real progress within our nation’s education system, and all industries in which working families currently struggle."

The National Partnership for Women & Families drafted and led the fight for the Family and Medical Leave Act. The organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at

  Please leave this field empty