From the report

Alabama has recruited industry.

Now, the state must recruit and retain a stronger workforce.

The challenges are clear: The State Workforce Council predicts a shortage of 115,000 skilled workers by 2020. At the current rate, Alabama will suffer an “alarming” 200,000 worker shortfall by 2030, according to the Alabama Community College System’s 21st Century Workforce Initiative Report.

The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham believes that women are key to filling these gaps. Thus, family-friendly workplace policies that benefit both working parents and employers are critical for our region.

Our newest report, Clearing the Path: Next Steps opens the conversation about workplace policies that ensure women are a targeted part of the solution to our state’s workforce challenges.

In this report, we share success stories from a selection of local employers offering innovative policies.

Our goal is to highlight specific policies already working well in Greater Birmingham, provide opportunities for additional employers to learn from their peers, and create momentum for more Alabama corporations to evaluate how their own policies could better balance the needs of families.

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Key Policies and Findings

  • Paid Sick Leave
  • Child Care Supports
  • Paid Parental Leave
  • Fair Wages

Clearing the Path: Next Steps features four policies that research shows are of critical importance to working families.

A majority of the employers surveyed in the report have adopted at least one, and usually more than one, of these policies.

Specifically:

  • 69% offer starting wages higher than the federal minimum.
  • 66% offer paid sick leave to their employers, and permit parents to take sick leave to care for a sick child.
  • 76% offer paid parental leave, giving new parents time off to bond with their infants.
  • 47% offer corporate support for child care, either with an on-site child care center or through corporate subsides of a quality child care center.

Case studies presented in Clearing the Path: Next Steps and a wealth of academic research supports our theory that family-friendly policies are smart for business.

Benefits of family-friendly workplace policies include:

  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Lower turnover
  • Increased productivity

And there is no evidence that a company’s bottom line suffers.

15 Years of Loyalty and Counting...

Delilah Landrum started working at AMERICAN right out of high school. Fifteen years and two children later, she remains with the company, in part because of benefits that allow her to balance work and parenting. “My plan was to get out there and work, then go back to school immediately,” she said. “But this job is hard to walk away from.”

Delilah, 34, is married and lives in Vincent. She noted three specific benefits that have kept the job attractive for her. Paid parental leave permitted her to take 8 weeks off following the birth of each child and receive pay for 6.5 hours per day while on leave. Her children are now 6 and 9, so AMERICAN was ahead of the curve on paid family leave. Delilah has also been able to move up in the company. She’s worked as a security officer, in division offices including Human Resources, and now she schedules and orders raw materials for the ductile iron pipe plant, spending most of her days on the manufacturing floor. Finally, she is able to go back to school after all.

Thanks to AMERICAN’s tuition-reimbursement program, she takes online classes at the University of Alabama’s Life Track Program, and her company reimburses up to $5,400 per year for approved courses of study at accredited technical schools, colleges and universities.

Recommendations for Action

For Employers

  • Take one small step. Pick one of the policies in this report you can accomplish and see the difference it makes.
  • Conduct a company-wide compensation evaluation to make sure all employees are receiving equal pay for equal work and there is no gender pay gap in your workplace. Be prepared to take action even if it’s incremental and the gap is closed over time.
  • Offer training and educational support for women in lower-skilled positions that enable them to move into higher-level jobs.
  • Partner with nearby employers to start a collaborative child care center with corporate support. The corporate and civic leaders who created the Harris Early Learning Center successfully pioneered this model for Greater Birmingham. That was 25 years ago and the demand for quality child care has exploded since then.
  • Acknowledge the value of paid family leave for mothers and newborns, a benefit required in every other developed country in the world. Contact employers in this report who have added generous paid family leave and determine how it could work for your business.
  • Improve your starting wage incrementally, for example, in 50 cent steps.
Recommendations for Action

For Government

With HB 174 in 2016, Alabama’s Legislature restricted by law the ability of city and county governments to pass family-friendly workplace laws. That statute makes clear that the State has authority over “but not limited to, paid or unpaid leave, vacation, wage, or work schedule.” Therefore, the Legislature should use this authority to act.

At a minimum, the Legislature should:

  • Join 29 other states, including nearby Florida and Arkansas, and raise Alabama’s minimum wage above the federally mandated $7.25/hour.
  • Pass a family leave law providing at least six weeks of paid parental leave, as provided by 193 countries.
  • Pass a statewide sick leave law, giving workers access to earned, paid sick leave creating a healthier workplace and reducing likelihood of sick employees contaminating customers.
  • Research strategies successfully implemented by other Southeastern states—such as Georgia’s tax credit for employer-sponsored child care—and determine if and how such innovative policies would help industries in Alabama attract and retain the workforces they need.

"I was able to get a car."

How $11 an hour made a difference for one family.

Antonerria Davis always found a way to get to her job in Patient Transport at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), often riding with her mother who also worked at the hospital. But once her salary increased from $9/hour to $11/hour, Antonerria could finally afford her own car and the flexibility it provides. Antonerria, 23, has worked in Patient Transport, moving patients throughout the sprawling UAB complex for a year and a half.

Until her pay increase, she often worked side jobs at her aunt’s hair salon or at a car wash. “But now, I don’t have to do that, unless I really want to,” she says. The pay raise means she has more time with Darian, her 3-year-old son. She is also considering taking advantage of UAB’s program offering free college tuition to employees. Antonerria has a high school diploma and loves being in an environment where so many highly-educated professionals work hard. “Working here has made me want to go back to school,” she says.

Clearing the Path: Next Steps

Local Employers Featured

The Women’s Fund would like to thank the following companies for their assistance and contributions that made this report possible:

  • Alabama Power Company
  • AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO)
  • Baker Donelson
  • Balch & Bingham
  • Brasfield & Gorrie
  • City of Birmingham
  • EBSCO Industries
  • Jefferson County Commission
  • Mayer Electric Supply
  • McWane, Inc.
  • Protective Life Insurance Company
  • Regions Financial
  • Royal Cup Coffee and Tea
  • St. Vincent’s Health System
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham

Read the Report

Read the full report to learn about more win-win ideas for working parents and employers looking to grow and strengthen their workforce.

If you would like a paper copy of this report mailed to you, please call 205-326-4454.

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