CHICAGO – Recognizing the challenges workers face in trying to meet family and professional responsibilities, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed into law legislation sponsored by state Sen. Mattie Hunter that allows the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to establish a program to study and promote family-friendly work environments.
“Many workers have important responsibilities outside the workplace, like raising children or caring for aging parents. Their professional obligations shouldn’t result in neglect of family obligations,” said Blagojevich. “I salute Sen. Hunter for devising this plan to get the state involved in helping public and private sector businesses better accommodate their employees’ family responsibilities.”
Child Care Resources, a non-profit organization, found that across the nation, both men and women are struggling to balance work and family. Single fathers now head 1.5 million households compared to 570,000 on 1975. Parents of young children are in the workforce in record numbers: 75% of mothers with children under six and 59% of mothers with children under three.
Senate Bill 374, which won support from business and labor groups, authorizes DCEO to establish a family-friendly workplace initiative. Under the new program, the Department would collect information on public and private employers that offer their employees family-friendly benefits, such as childcare, flex-time, sick leave, and dependent care referrals. The Department’s review would differentiate between employers with 50 or fewer employees, and those with 51 or more employees.
Based on information gathered from employers, the Department can recognize the most family-friendly employers with awards and promote their family-friendly practices through a statewide informational and promotional campaign.
Attention to family-friendly policies has been growing over the past few years. According to a Wall Street Journal article from July 1998, “Anecdotal evidence indicates that some employers are finding that workers that lead balanced lives are more productive. Those firms are aiming to improve employee satisfaction by increasing communication between workers and bosses, improving scheduling flexibility and recognizing workers' need to balance work and family.”
“I’m very excited that the first bill I passed in the legislature focuses on family-friendly initiatives,” said freshman state Sen. Mattie Hunter, the bill’s primary sponsor. “Family is important to me, and this bill will hopefully enhance the quality of life for families throughout the state.”
The legislation signed today won unanimous support in both chambers of the General Assembly.