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Flexibility Is a Familial Sight at 8 Otherwise Dissimilar Firms

June 29, 1997|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS

Los Angeles County has honored a flock of family-friendly employers and about the only thing the eight companies have in common is their flexible approach to the personal obligations of their workers.

Among the eight are companies big and small, from the hulking Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority to the five-employee Pasadena Historical Museum. There's also a manufacturer, an accounting firm, a bookstore, a law office, a plumbing company and a newspaper (alas, not this one).

The Los Angeles County Child Care Advisory Board and the Board of Supervisors started honoring family-friendly employers in 1994 to encourage companies to find ways to help their workers with the never-ending personal ups and downs that affect their jobs.

The annual call for nominations, which are made by employees, this year saw a record 41 companies named, up more than threefold from last year, said Kathy Malaske-Samu, Los Angeles County child-care coordinator. Although more companies are offering family-friendly benefits, the jump in nominations probably reflects increased awareness of the recognition program rather than a sudden rise in benefits, she said.

"Unfortunately, we still have a ways to go," Malaske-Samu said. By recognizing both the "splashy" programs of big corporations and the more limited but perhaps more flexible policies of small employers, "we want to send out the message that there are things firms of any size can do," she said.

The eight companies that received praise and a scroll at a June 3 Board of Supervisors meeting share a continuing commitment to helping parents with their daily dilemmas, Malaske-Samu said.

"Sometimes companies have all the programs on the books, but nobody has the courage to use them," she said.

Former winners have included Great Western Bank, TRW, London Temporary Services and Rutland Tool & Supply.

Here are the 1997 Family-Friendly Employers and what they do that landed them a place on the list:

* Deloitte & Touche is a Big Six accounting firm with more than 1,000 employees in Los Angeles County. The company offers flexible scheduling, paid parental leave, child-care referrals, a parent resource center, a dependent-care spending account, parenting seminars at the work site, adoption assistance, reduced work schedules and emergency child care at ChildrenFirst, a center in downtown Los Angeles that is part of a national chain specializing in backup child care.

* Dutton's Brentwood Books is a well-known independent bookstore that offers its employees flexible scheduling, paid parental leave, emergency child care, a parent resource center (in the form of all those books) and financial assistance.

* Law Office of Susan R. Wasserman in the Wilshire district emphasizes flexible scheduling as well as emergency child care and a dependent-care spending account.

* Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a huge municipal agency with more than 8,700 employees, uses its family-friendly policies as a recruitment tool. They include flexible scheduling, emergency child care, on-site child care, near-site child care, a dependent-care spending account and parent seminars.

* McDermott Plumbing & Pumping in Malibu offers flexible scheduling, job sharing, on-site child care, near-site child care, financial assistance and parenting seminars.

* Pacesetter Inc. of Sylmar employs more than 1,000 people manufacturing cardiac pacemakers and other medical equipment. Pacesetter's benefits include flexible scheduling, parental leave, financial assistance, near-site child care, a dependent-care spending account and an employee assistance program.

* Pasadena Historical Museum has only five full-time employees and one part-timer, but four of them have children under age 18. The private museum maintains a policy of flexibility in scheduling and provides emergency child care.

* The Signal is a small weekly newspaper in Signal Hill with 10 full-time employees that works to maintain a "family attitude." Formal benefits include flexible scheduling, emergency child care, on-site child care and near-site child care.

Has your company developed an interesting way to help employees balance work life and family life? Write to Balancing Act, Business News, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or e-mail nancy.rivera.brooks@latimes.com

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