Amazon creates new flexibility for workers

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon is looking to bring more parents back to the workplace with the help of a new program that provides flexible scheduling designed to help employees balance work and home life.

The program, called FamilyFlex, gives employees (which may differ by business and employment type) a slate of resources that include pregnancy and parental leave,  adoption assistance and, in select positions, the ability to swap shifts and create custom schedules. According to Amazon, FamilyFlex is based on feedback from employees about managing their work and personal lives.

Through FamilyFlex, Amazon offers employees in select roles a variety of ways to choose and change their schedule. Some of the options, which can differ based on an individual’s role, include swapping shifts, ahead of time or at the last minute, using Amazon’s internal mobile app or desktop site.

With a few clicks, employees can swap shifts with a co-worker or exchange a current shift for a future one that they have scheduled for themselves. The option is currently available to nearly 500,000 employees in Amazon’s fulfillment and delivery network across the U.S., with more expansion expected.

Another flexible scheduling option is “Anytime Shifts,” which gives employees in select roles the opportunity to pick the time and type of shift that works best for them. Employees who opt for this type of role can pick up shifts on Amazon’s internal app to create their own preferred schedule. They can also use the app to cancel a shift in as little as 16 hours before the shift begins. The company currently has over 23,000 open roles that qualify for Anytime Shifts across its U.S. operations network, and it says more than 100,000 employees have utilized the benefit.

With the “Anytime Pay,” flexible pay option, select U.S. employees can transfer the majority of their earnings since their last paycheck to a paycard. The card can be used anywhere that Visa is accepted, and employees can also withdraw cash at participating ATMs and transfer money from their paycard to a regular bank account, all at no cost. Amazon has tens of thousands of open roles that qualify for Anytime Pay across its U.S. operations network, and more than 150,000 current employees have access to the benefit.

For employees who have or are planning to have a family, Amazon FamilyFlex offers access to fully paid pregnancy and leave options for eligible new parents, including up to 20 weeks of paid pregnancy and parental leave for birthing parents.

The company also has a “Leave Share” option and a flexible return-to-work program known as “Ramp Back.” The Leave Share program gives new parents the option to give up to six weeks of paid parental leave to a spouse or partner who isn’t eligible for parental leave from their employer. The Ramp Back program offers parents eight consecutive weeks of flexibility and partial work hours after the birth or adoption of a child.

Employees also have free access to a network of more than 2 million caregivers, including nannies, babysitters, and special-needs caretakers. Amazon provides free access to UrbanSitter, Sittercity, and Years Ahead, which connect employees to child, elder, and pet care providers. Amazon pays for the memberships to find care, while employees pay for care services.

Amazon employees can also receive preferred enrollment for full-service care at Bright Horizons child care centers with waived registration fees up to $250, tuition discounts for full-service care at participating non-Bright Horizons network partner centers, and discounted tutoring and test prep services for students.

Other services include a variety of free resources for parents of children with autism, ADHD, and other developmental disabilities, up to six weeks of paid leave and reimbursement up to $5,000 for certain expenses for parents who adopt. The company also offers Resources for Living, a free, 24/7 mental and daily health service for all employees, their families, and anyone in their household.

Amazon is boosting the flexibility and support it offers employees as it substantially increases its workforce. The e-tail giant recently announced plans to hire more than 40,000 new corporate and tech employees and 125,000 full- and part-time employees for fulfillment and transportation jobs, as well as offering seasonal hires sign-on bonuses.

“The pandemic has put a spotlight on, and even exacerbated, the challenges faced by families who care for young children,” said Alicia Boler Davis, senior VP of global customer fulfillment at Amazon. “Giving employees ways to balance work and home commitments is important to us, which is why we go beyond providing an average starting wage of $18 per hour and comprehensive benefits, and also offer a variety of opportunities with flexible scheduling options to ensure each employee can do what works best for them.”