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Many firms not 'family friendly' Most employers don't do enough, a new study says.


Most Baltimore-area employers aren't "family-friendly," a Loyola College survey has concluded.

In a survey of 318 area employers, Joseph Procaccini, director of Loyola's Center for Family, Work and Education, said he found most companies in the area don't provide benefits that help workers take care of family responsibilities.

"A lot of lip service is paid to 'family-friendliness,' " Dr. Procaccini said yesterday at a Greater Baltimore Committee conference on work and family concerns held at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore. But "the Baltimore corporate community is lagging severely on the issue."

Dr. Procaccini said he didn't study how Baltimore's "family friendliness" compared with that of other business communities.

But many local employers, including some who attended the morning conference, said the criticism wasn't warranted.

They care about their workers' families and offer the best benefits they can, they said. But the recession and the needs of their customers don't allow for some of the benefits -- such as flexible work hours, yearlong leaves for new parents or job-sharing -- that Dr. Procaccini asked about, they said.

Richard Mandy, president of Baltimore-based Maryland Office Interiors, said he tries to help his 65 employees when they have family problems. But he can't allow all of them to choose their own working hours, for example, because the telephones have to be staffed throughout the day.

"I've got a department with one or two people. If one person is gone, the department is closed," he said.

Dr. Procaccini said employers in the area don't offer benefits that help workers take care of their children or their elderly parents because they are afraid the programs would be costly, would expose them to insurance liabilities or won't return anything to the company.

In addition, he said, most companies in the area are led by middle-aged or older white males. He said they haven't had to bear extensive parental or caretaking responsibilities, and thus haven't paid much attention to those kinds of concerns.

"Their wives are home taking care of the kids," Dr. Procaccini said.

However, Dr. Procaccini did describe a few employers in the area as "family-friendly."

IBM, which offers flexible work schedules, extensive medical an leave benefits and even some reimbursement for adoption expenses, is one of the "friendliest" employers in the country, he said. IBM has two operations in Maryland, with 400 workers in Baltimore.

The Rouse Co., which offers flexible schedules, reimbursemen for many adoption costs, and helps workers find openings at day-care centers, also scored high in Dr. Procaccini's survey.

Dr. Procaccini also cited McCormick & Co., PHH Corp. Enterprise Development Co., General Physics Co. and the Baltimore Museum of Art as "friendly."

William D. Boden, vice president for personnel an administrative services at Rouse, said his company continues to improve its benefits, despite the recession, as managers anticipate a long-term shortage of qualified workers.

No friends of the family

A Loyola College professor, Joseph Procaccini, said he found in a survey that most local employers don't provide benefits to help workers deal with family responsibilities. Of the 318 companies surveyed . . .

7% ... provide child-care services at work or at nearby child-care centers. 23% ... keep jobs open at least a year for those on maternity or paternity leave

30% ... allow employees to work at home

... recognize care of the elderly as a legitimate reason for leaves of absence

60% ... allow employees to use telephones for family calls during work hours

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