05/25/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A New Work Life Balance Bill

This morning, the White House announced a forum on Workplace Flexibility scheduled for March 31. For those who have worked on work life balance issues, this focus on the issue by the White House is an exciting development.

Within Congress, there are current legislative efforts to expand paid and sick leave and compensatory time, as have come up for many years. There is one new bill this year, H.R. 4855, the Work-Life Balance Award Act of 2010, that deserves attention. Its a fine bill, and a good step in creating incentives for businesses to offer support to help workers balance their work and family lives.

However, I remain concerned that the bill was not bipartisan. Some of the greatest value of a bill like H.R. 4855 is in its potential to bridge the labor vs. business divide that prevents more significant action on work life balance issues. There is an unfortunate gridlock between business and labor that prevents much progress on work life issues. There is a mismatch between the needs of American families today and the structure of American workplaces. The major need is for more flexibility as a result. Policies to encourage workplace flexibility are important and H.R. 4855 is a good step. There need to be small steps towards bipartisanship in this area so that over time bridges can be built for more extensive action to expand the flexibility of work in America.

However, the bill was introduced by Rep. Lynn Woosley and has only one cosponsor, Rep. George Miller, both Democrats. This bill is the kind of small step in the right direction that's greatest value might have been in having those two Democrats line up with say, two Republicans, to begin bipartisan action on work life issues. Its a missed opportunity for the bill to come forward without Republicans as original cosponsors.

However, there is still time for Democrats and Republicans to work together on this legislation and other ideas to expand workplace flexibility.