Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

Employee Accommodations in Small Business Organizations

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

Employee Accommodations in Small Business Organizations

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Because of limited financial and human resources, small entrepreneurial organizations often struggle to meet work accommodation needs of their employees. Further complicating this challenge is an absence of professional human resource expertise and procedures to guide accommodation decision making. As a result, accommodations frequently carry with them more unintended negative consequences for co-workers than would otherwise be necessary or desirable. While many of these small organizations are not legally mandated to provide accommodations, their employees still have occasions where accommodations are needed and considered to be appropriate. Entrepreneurial organizations need creative and practical strategies to meet such needs. To address these concerns, many factors should be considered and incorporated into organizational responses to such requests. A model discussing these factors is proposed and suggestions for implementing accommodations in a manner which minimizes negative impacts are described.

INTRODUCTION

All organizations, at one time or another, find they must make accommodations for employees who need to attend to their own or a family member's health-related issues or to accommodate military service. Accommodations may be in the form of time off for medical appointments, recovery time, or may involve work changes, such as when employees become disabled and are no longer able to work as they have in the past. Small organizations, however, are particularly challenged by these changes in work status because they have fewer financial or human resources available to cover the time employees are away from their jobs or to make necessary work changes. Vacation and sick time are difficult to deal with but, as these time spans are relatively short and, at least for vacation, are of a finite and predictable duration, most small organizations find a way to "make do." When employees or their family members have more serious and longer lasting health concerns, simple adjustments to make do will not suffice. As more employees request leave for military duty, childbirth/adoption, or to care for aging parents, ensuring that accommodations are successful is becoming a growing need for competitive businesses.

Existing research on accommodations or leaves focuses primarily on the employees requesting accommodations. Research issues have included: what legal rights are provided to employees (Samuels, Coffinberger & Fouts, 1988; Ennis, 1990; Crampton & Mishra, 1995); who is actually eligible for accommodations (Hoekstra, 1997); when do employees choose to utilize these rights (Grosswald & Scharlach, 1999; Dorman, 1995; McGovern, Dowd, Gjerdingen, Moscovice, Kochevar, & Murphy, 2000); and what types of accommodations are to be provided (Cash & Gray, 2000). All of these questions are important but the narrow focus on the requesting employee fails to address the influence that the larger context has in the accommodation process. These contextual factors, such as organizational size and resources, co-workers, managers, job attributes, and the law, play crucial roles in defining ultimate success of the accommodation. The model proposed here explores how these issues may affect the design process and implementation of an accommodation. It is stressed that the roles of management and co-workers are critical in this process.

Employees requesting accommodations typically need periods of time away from work, adjustments to work schedules, and/or changes to the work tasks they regularly perform. In practice, all organizations have a combination of formal and informal systems for allowing employees time away from work for these types of life events. Small organizations, like their larger counterparts, typically have time off programs for vacations, illness, and personal time. Legal requirements, such as Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), apply to all employers but small organizations may be exempted from legal mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and workers' compensation programs. …

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