Congratulations on your second term. As you laid out your agenda in your inaugural speech on Monday, I listened for hints of how you will proceed on the workforce policy front. With a new Department of Labor Secretary to be selected soon and the myriad of regulations still needed to implement key laws passed in your first term, there is much activity ahead.
As you well know, your first priority needs to be growing our economy and finding innovative ways to solve our current economic crisis. Here's hoping for bipartisan proposals that succeed and a resolution to the looming sequestration threat.
In addition to these economic priorities, here's a list of workplace issues that deserve your attention and leadership:
Encourage workplace flexibility policies not through mandates but incentives.
Many best practice companies already are working hard to provide the full portfolio of work-life programs that meet the needs of their employees. In 2010 the White House began a national conversation on workplace flexibility by hosting a forum. Recognizing that work-life effectiveness goes beyond workplace flexibility, WorldatWork and our affiliate, the Alliance for Work-life Progress (AWLP), promote a philosophy that supports efforts to help everyone who works to achieve success within and outside of the workplace. A portfolio of seven categories of workplace practices and policies have evolved in distinctive patterns over the past three decades. The portfolio addresses the life events that must be managed across the career life cycle: Caring for Dependents, Health and Wellness, Workplace Flexibility, Financial Support, Paid and Unpaid Time Off, Community Involvement, and Culture Change Initiatives.
Mandatory flexibility is not the solution and may well backfire.
WorldatWork believes that one way to promote workplace flexibility is through the use of tax incentives, such as tax credits or tax subsidies for flexibility programs and government-studied best practices.
Increase limits on FSA amounts for dependent care
It is high time that we increased the limits on the Flexible Spending Account amounts for dependent care and index it to inflation. The current $5,000 annual amount established in 1986 does not come close to what dependent care costs typical families in 2013. An increase would help make childcare and dependent care more affordable to thousands of employees who use this tax-free vehicle to subsidize expenses incurred by their children, elder parents or other dependents.
Expand voluntary workplace financial education
It is important to also encourage financial capability among the workforce through employer provided programs. Late last year the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability (PACFC) recommended that "the president encourage private sector, nonprofit and state/tribal/local government employers to make it a priority to improve the financial capability of their employees."
I would love to see the administration move forward with this recommendation.
Reducing health care costs
One issue you did raise in your inauguration speech was the cost of health care. Wellness programs are one way to start focusing on reducing health care costs. I hope that recent proposed regulations on the implementation of the wellness incentive authorized in the Affordable Care Act will allow for the flexibility to adopt wellness programs that fit each employer's employee population.
As you celebrate this week, I look forward to hearing more from the White House on ways to bring together disparate voices to develop new ideas and policies. You have four more years to continue to craft your presidential legacy. I hope that part of your agenda will recognize the potential for employers to work together with the administration to move these issues forward.
With best wishes,
Cara Woodson Welch
WorldatWork Vice President of Public Policy and Public Affairs