RIGHT TO REQUEST….Of all the articles in our “New Progressivism” package, Karen Kornbluh’s “The Joy of Flex” was the one I found the most fascinating. It describes a British program that allows working parents to request flex time:

The policy, which went into effect in 2003, works like this: Any parent with one or more children under the age of six, who has worked at least 26 consecutive weeks, has the right to file a written request with his or her employer for a change in working hours?be that in the form of compressed hours, flex-time, telecommuting, job-sharing, shift-working, or staggered hours.

The employee must explain exactly how the proposed schedule would work and offer solutions to any inconvenience that might be caused to the employer. For their part, employers are required to meet with any worker who has filed such a request within four weeks to discuss the proposed plan, and they must notify the employee of a decision within two weeks of that meeting.

The part I found most interesting is that the program doesn’t rely on bureaucratic coercion. Employees have the right to request flex time, but employers aren’t required to give it to them. The only requirement is that employers meet with workers who have requested flex time and give them a good reason if they turn them down.

And apparently that’s all it takes ? at least in Britain. 86% of workers who request flex time have gotten it, amounting to nearly one-quarter of all workers who are eligible for the program. Workers like it, businesses report no real problems adapting, and it’s been a big success for Tony Blair’s government.

Sounds like something that ought to be on the Democratic Party agenda.