Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Decline of the Pink Collar Worker

The 37.5 Hour Work Week

I visited a vice president at a private nonprofit college one time. He seemed particularly pleased to tell me that he had no administrative assistant.  He answered his own phone.  I know another professional who is constantly photocopying and preparing report materials because there is no clerical support.  I’m sure that you have visited a government agency or university that has a receptionist or administrative assistant in the middle of the hall.  You’ve come across a locked door and had to use an intercom and be buzzed in.  You may have had to be the receptionist and talked to visitors, clients, or customers because you had no support person to do so.  Of course, we all have become accustomed to the ubiquitous, press 1 if you want…, press 2 if you would like to speak to, etc.

Some of these situations have occurred for efficiency.  We all have computers and cell phones to keep in touch with staff, clients, customers.  Some of these situations have been occurred purportedly for security.  Now with the new Fair Labor Standards Act rules going into effect Dec 1 that will require you to pay overtime to once professional exempt workers, you may be thinking about whether you need that clerical help again, this time to save money. 

We just went through an election cycle when politicians bemoaned the loss of manufacturing jobs and offered solutions.  The decline of manufacturing, however, is nothing new.  Nor is the decline of the pink collar worker, but few talk about the situation.  

Are there other ways to approach the changes in exempt and non-exempt status of your employees besides laying off?  Sure FLSA experts and Management.Vision will tell you to conduct a job analysis to consider whether the jobs are truly doing exempt or non-exempt work but, for the most part, your professionals at the lower end will become eligible for overtime. 

Think about the flip side, how much time your executives and professionals will spend on clerical work with a loss of a pink collar worker.  No executive or professional is going to  
admit the time they spend on clerical work.  Consider what impression you make not having an available receptionist. 

How about shortening the forty hour week?  There is no law that says your work week must be forty hours.  I have worked in places that have had a 37.5 hour work week and a 35 hour work week. I know some employers who have used a 39 hour work week. Who wouldn't like to go home an hour early on Friday.  I’ve seen the 37.5 hour work week successful in a nonprofit hospital including for the nursing staff. This doesn’t mean that you won’t need to pay overtime and certainly hospitals do, but you just might save a job, keep good customer relations, and keep down that expensive wage for your professionals to do clerical work.  Cutting the work week and saving jobs may not work in all nonprofits and government agencies but it might work for yours.