Government shouldn't get into mandating time off

The importance of having parents attending parent-teacher conferences can’t really be argued. It’s something people should be able to agree on regardless of their political stripe.

Where people start to disagree, however, is when government gets involved.

Democratic Rep. Bob Miller of Fairbanks has introduced a bill, House Bill 315, that would require employers to allow employees with children to take off up to four unpaid hours a year for the purpose of attending their children’s parent-teacher conferences. The bill specifies some requirements of employers and employees and allows some exceptions, but the bottom line is parents would be given the time to attend conferences up to twice per year.

Rep. Miller’s bill, while admirable in its aim, should be viewed as a last resort. The preferable course is for employers and employees to find a way to make it work. Employers who allow their employees the time to attend the conferences likely get appreciated a bit more by their employees, who will take note that they work in a good and caring workplace. And employees who feel this way make for better workers, benefiting the employer.

It’s not always easy for an employer — especially a small business — to let an employee leave the office for an hour or so to make a scheduled appointment with the teacher. And since a teacher can’t possibly see every parent during a lunch hour, parents will be asked to come in for a visit at hours that might not be easy for an employer to handle.

But employers, with some coordination and ample notice by teachers and employees, can find a way to make it work. Parent-teacher conferences are that important.

Employers who cringe at government telling them what to do should take it upon themselves to eliminate a problem before it comes to the attention of government. They should work hand in hand with their employees to see that parent-teacher conferences get the attention they need.

Otherwise, the heavy hand of government will step in.

02/23/2012 - 11:41am