DoD Highlights Family Friendly Policies
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 1997 Flexitime, flexiplace, telecommuting -- family friendly programs and policies are expanding throughout the Defense Department.
In a recent report to the president, family policy officials outlined current family support programs and plans for the future. They include:
DoD's child care system is the largest employer-sponsored program in the nation. Service members can choose child development centers, family child care homes, school-age care programs and information and referral systems. The need for child care continues to grow.
About 65 percent of military spouses are employed. About one million children of active duty families to age 12 need child care. Currently DoD meets about 54 percent of the need for child care. The goal is to meet 65 percent of the need by 1997 and 80 percent by 2000.
DoD offers youth programs at more than 360 youth centers and 320 other locations worldwide. These are available to the nearly half million youth ages 6 to 11 and 300,000 youth ages 12 to 18. DoD is evaluating the results of a random survey of 7,000 youth to assess their needs and interests.
After a quality of life task force determined youth programs needed increased support, DoD funded The Model Community project to demonstrate how communities could identify specific needs and develop programs for youth employment, relocation assistance, health and social concerns, and conflict resolution training.
Added quality of life funding in fiscal 1995 increased the number of spaces for before and after school care by about 20,000. DoD is also expanding its partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to provide more youth programs.
There are more than 290 family centers around the world designed to help families with the unique challenges of military life. One core program each center offers is Family Life Education. This covers relationships, parenting and other issues. The centers offer programs to enhance self-esteem, strengthen interpersonal competency and couples communication.
Centers also provide deployment, relocation, employment, financial management and crisis assistance. They provide information and referral services for child and elder care, social services and other community resources. Family centers coordinate volunteer programs and sponsor family life education programs. They provide family support during deployments.
Military Family Resource Center
The Washington-based Military Family Resource Center publishes the quarterly Military Family Newsletter, sent to about 13,000 policy makers, program managers, researchers and service providers worldwide.
The center also offers the Military Family Clearinghouse, a collection of research information on military families. It has information to help community officials design, support or expand programs and activities in support of military families' quality of life. It also features a database with more than 10,000 records related to military family issues. Plans call for making center materials available on the Internet.
Alternative Work Schedules
DoD officials estimate about half the DoD work force is working under some form of alternative work schedule. This policy includes flexible and compressed works schedules. Each is an adjustment to the traditional fixed schedules of eight hours per day, five days per week, which begins and ends at the same time each day.
A flexible work schedule is a biweekly work requirement that allows employees to set their own schedule within tour of duty limits set by the organization. A compressed work schedule allows employees to complete their 80-hour biweekly work requirement in less than 10 eight-hour days.
For example, an employee may work eight 10-hour days and have two days off per pay period. More common in DoD is the 5/4-9 schedule under which employees work eight nine-hour days, one eight-hour day and have a day off during the normal two-week pay period.
A 1995 memorandum from the deputy defense secretary asked the service secretaries and defense agency directors to encourage the use and expansion of flexible work arrangements. An upcoming DoD civilian personnel directive will direct all organizations to incorporate flexible work arrangements into their civilian personnel.
Family-Friendly Leave Policies
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees are entitled to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the birth of a child and care of the newborn; adoption or foster care of a child; care of a spouse, son, daughter or parent with a serious health condition; or a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her duties.
Up to 13 days of sick leave each year can be used to care for a family member or arrange for or attend the funeral of a family member. Sick leave can also be used for purposes related to adopting a child. Sick leave taken during an adoption does not count toward the annual 13-day limit under the Family-Friendly Leave Act. Another seven days of paid leave each calendar year -- beyond annual and sick leave -- are authorized to employees donating bone marrow or organs.
Leave transfer programs allow federal employees to donate annual leave to other federal employees who have medical emergencies who have exhausted their own leave. Leave banks allow employees to contribute a specified amount of annual leave each year to their agency for employees with emergencies who have used up their own leave.
Part-Time Employment, Job Sharing & Telecommuting
Permanent part-time employees work between 16 and 32 hours per week and are eligible for the same benefits as full-time employees.
Job sharing is a form of part-time employment in which the schedules of two part-time employees are arranged to cover the duties of a single full-time position. This benefits the agency since both employees may be able to work extra hours when there are unexpected workload surges, up to 32 hours each per week, without costly overtime.
Telecommuting, also known as flexiplace, allows employees to work at home or another location such as a telecommuting center one or more days a week. The president's management council is sponsoring a National Telecommuting Initiative aimed at increasing the number of federal telecommuters from the current 9,000 to 60,000 by the end of fiscal 1998.
Military and civilian members of DoD's total work force are encouraged to contact their personnel office for more information on these programs.