State lawmakers are considering a time-off mandate that requires businesses to allow their employees to leave work for a wide variety of “school-related” activities—leaving their companies and colleagues in the lurch.

HB 6501 requires businesses to grant eight hours of leave each year to full- and part-time workers who are parents or guardians (including grandparents who are guardians) to attend their children’s “qualified school-related activities.”    

While this might seem like a good idea, it doesn’t take long to see how it will cause more trouble than good.

Field Trips etc.

First of all, “qualified school related activities” is so broadly defined that it includes not only parent-teacher conferences, but also field trips, “back to school” events, school board meetings, and the wide-open “school visits to attend the immediate needs of the employee’s child.”   

On top of that, employees don’t have to provide their employer with any advance notice, nor do workers have to produce any kind of reasonable verification for the request.

What if the timing is bad? It doesn’t matter; the company can’t deny a request under the threat of a fine for the attempt, or if the employee alleges that refusal. 

Employees must use their existing vacation time, personal leave or compensatory time for the parental leave. If those resources are exhausted, employers have to allow the workers to take unpaid leave. 

Everyday Consideration

What’s ironic is that Connecticut has some of the best employers in the United States and every day managers in those businesses are working to accommodate their employees on requests for special time off when the need arises.

Instead of that carefully managed (and not government-controlled) scenario, this bill will create hard feelings among workers who don’t have children, and with the employees left behind who—perhaps at a moment’s notice—will have to cover for their colleagues who have left for the morning, afternoon, or day.

HB 6501 is being promoted by the two main teachers' unions in the state and its main purpose is to free teachers from having to hold parent-teacher conferences and other events at night--when most parents are off from work.

Businesses are concerned that, especially after the passage of mandatory paid sick leave, they are facing yet another employee time off mandate. This new proposal is costly, burdensome, and sends the wrong message to Connecticut’s business community.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Gjede at 860.244.1931 or eric.gjede@cbia.com.