For many years the traditional attitude towards the forty-hour week has been changing not only in the minds of workers and employers, but also in the minds of the legislative bodies that create the mandates which govern workplace policies. While the forty hour workweek was once a standard policy, over the years many companies have begun to adopt different practices to suit the individual needs of both their workplaces and employees. Recently however, the United States House of Representatives passed a piece of legislature that could make it possible for employees to trade overtime hours for the pay they have earned for time off, a policy that has been met with mixed results.
The overtime trade off policy would only be available to workers in the private sector and it passed in a 223-204 vote in The House of Representatives. The plan has received a great deal of support from the Republican party and is designed to give employees greater flexibility when it comes to choosing when they can take time off to spend with their families or simply just to vacation. More specifically, the plan would allow workers to accumulate up to 160 overtime hours which can be traded for time off at any point throughout the year, but many Democrats in Congress oppose the plan stating that it could potentially endanger employee rights.
If they choose to workers can simply accept overtime pay as it is earned, or they can use those overtime hours as time off from work to use for any reason they see fit and at any time. The concept isn’t entirely new and in some corporations such practices are already implemented, albeit on a smaller scale. However, this would be the first time that the government has actually stepped in to regulate the use of overtime hours and their use for such purposes. In the past the concept of flextime has also been a popular means of adjusting how overtime hours are accounted for, in addition to the four-day and ten-hour a day workweek. Both of these practices are already in use in some workplace settings although neither is regulated or monitored as extensively as the current proposal would be.
The current plan, although passed in the House of Representatives, is expected to be voted down in the democratically controlled Senate; and even the President has threatened to veto the bill should it be approved by the Senate. The primary concern among democrats is that the bill will not grant employees any additional control over how their overtime hours are used; they fear abuses in the system may arise and be impossible to regulate. While the intent of the plan is to give working parents more flexibility when it comes to their time off, worker advocacy groups in addition to democrats oppose the bill. They suggest that it could endanger the workers’ rights to fair pay, and in fact would not grant them any additional control over their work schedule.