BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Posts Tagged ‘FMLA’

20 Years Ago, America Became a More Family Friendly Nation – And we Must Do It Again

Posted by YWM on February 15, 2013

debra nessDebra Ness, President, National Partnership

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

February 5, marked a historic and celebratory moment in our nation’s history.

Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton signed into law the very first bill of his administration, and its first word is “family.” Since then, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has enabled millions of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters to get and provide critical care without risking their jobs or health insurance protections. It has provided job-protected, unpaid leave for moms and dads to care for babies, adult children to care for ailing older parents, workers to recover from serious illness, and much more.

At the National Partnership — then the Women’s Legal Defense Fund — the signing of the FMLA was the culmination of years of leadership and hard work drafting, coalition building, advocating, communicating, occasionally compromising and, most importantly, never giving up on our vision for a more family-friendly America.

“Groundbreaking” is a word that’s thrown around a lot, but this victory truly was. The FMLA is the first national law ever to help Americans manage the dual demands of work and family. It was made possible by a broad coalition of 200 diverse groups and by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who knew it was time to start changing the culture in this country.

And we prevailed, for the good of the nation.

Today, 20 years later, the FMLA has been used more than 100 million times. Many Americans take for granted that working people have access to job-protected, unpaid leave when serious medical needs arise — a testament to the great success of the law. For an entire generation, taking leave under the FMLA has been a fundamental, unquestioned right.

The tremendous impact of the FMLA on people’s lives and the culture of the nation are real reasons for us all to celebrate. But this anniversary is also a stark reminder of how long it has been since lawmakers have come together to prioritize the needs of America’s working families. And data from the Department of Labor (DOL), released just yesterday, make painfully clear the urgency for further progress.

According to the DOL’s first survey of the FMLA in 13 years, 40 percent of the workforce is not covered by the FMLA’s protections. And the inability to afford to take unpaid leave is the most common reason workers who are covered by the law say they didn’t take leave when they needed it. (A more detailed analysis of the DOL’s findings can be found here.)

These gaps are the result of dramatic changes in our workforce in the past two decades, and the fact that the FMLA was meant to be just a first step on the road to a family-friendly America. Twenty years later, the country has yet to take the next step. And the bipartisanship and commitment to a better country for working people that made FMLA possible seems a distant and fading memory.

Fortunately, there is hope. More and more lawmakers and others recognize family-friendly policies as essential to families’ economic security, to the success of businesses, and to restoring the vitality of our nation’s economy.

The American public recognizes this as well. There are significant opportunities for progress on the horizon, and a growing body of research that shows that Americans, across demographic and party lines, want — and urgently need — Congress to move the country forward. In fact, according to recent polling, the overwhelming majority of Americans say they struggle to manage work and family obligations. Eighty-six percent say Congress should consider new laws that would help, like a paid family and medical leave insurance program.

Paid leave policies benefit working families, businesses and our national economy. They keep people working, level the playing field for businesses, reduce reliance on public assistance and much, much more. Paid leave policies are win-win-win, and it is time for members of Congress to make the introduction and passage of a national standard a top priority.

Twenty years ago, America became a more family friendly nation. We can — and must — do it again.

You can find out more about the FMLA, its history, and the need for next steps at www.NationalPartnership.org/FMLA.

Posted in Families, Financial Security, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Paid Sick Leave Legislation Catching on Across the Country

Posted by egehl on June 23, 2011

Momentum is building across the country at the state and local level in support of paid sick leave days.

Currently no federal  laws guaranty that all workers must be eligible for a minimum number of paid sick days.  As a result, millions of workers across the country cannot afford or don’t feel comfortable taking time off when they feel sick, or need to take care of a family member.  Workers must choose between their health or their paycheck leading to many consequences, such as workers becoming increasingly ill or having to take time off without pay hurting their family financially.

A few years ago, the Healthy Families Act was introduced in Congress which requires businesses with 15 or more employees to provide up to 7 days of paid sick leave each year.  Three components of the bill are of significant benefit to women as the paid leave covers: recovery from routine illness or care for an ill family member; doctor’s appointments and other preventative care; and time spent seeking help and services for victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.

Building off the national campaign to pass the Healthy Families Act, states and cities are following suit with support for paid sick leave for workers.  For example, Connecticut has just become the first state in the nation to pass paid sick days legislation that will ensure workers will be able to take paid time off to recover when they are sick or to care for a sick family member.  There are three cities, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Milwaukee where employees and their families benefit from some form of paid sick leave.  The Mayor of  Philadelphia recently vetoed paid sick leave legislation passed by the City Council.

According to a new study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, San Francisco’s mandatory sick-leave law has wide acceptance among employees and employers.  IWPR’s survey found that two-thirds of employers support the San Francisco law, and only 1 in 7 employers complained that it affected their profitability.  The typical worker covered by the law used only three sick days per year and one quarter of employees took no time off for illness.

There is growing support for policies, such as paid sick leave, that protect the health of workers and their families to reflect the economic realities of family life today.  Now that women make up almost half of the workforce, most families with children have two working parents and growing numbers of workers care for an aging parent, few can afford to lose a day’s pay because they stayed home sick or cared for a sick loved one.

In addition to Connecticut, action is expected soon on paid sick leave measures around the county in a number of cities and states that have robust coalitions and advocacy efforts including Seattle, and Denver.  In New York City, Massachusetts, Georgia, California and a dozen other states and cities, coalitions are actively building support for similar measures.

With these positive developments, stay tuned to hear more about states and cities supporting this sensible, long overdue measure to help workers balance their lives and take care of their families while still being able to afford it.

Posted in Advocacy, Families, Health, Successful Workplaces, Worklife Balance | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

What Is It Going to Take to Make Work-Life Policy the Norm?

Posted by espressodog on January 7, 2010

Over the holidays President Obama signed into law the only piece of work-life legislation to pass Congress in ‘09 – the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections ActThis new law amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to make sure that flight attendants and pilots are able to qualify for FMLA benefits. More than four-fifths of flight attendants are women and due to a quirk in the way their hours are calculated they have been unable to avail themselves of FMLA leave until now. 

The FMLA was the first national policy designed to help men and women meet the dual demands of work and family. After nearly a decade of negotiation and compromise, the FMLA was signed by President Clinton in 1993. So far, workers have used it more than 100 million times to take time off without fear of losing their jobs. A 2000 U.S. Department of Labor study found that a vast majority of employers report that FMLA has a positive or neutral effect on productivity (83 percent), profitability (90 percent), and growth (90 percent).

FMLA provides access to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for events such as the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. It has been a tremendously successful but its reach is limited. Groups that don’t have access to FMLA include: part-time workers, small business employees, farm workers and until two weeks ago, flight attendants and pilots.

The FMLA is the cornerstone of an effective work-life policy, but many workers are not covered by its protections. Nearly 50 percent of workers are not eligible for the FMLA because they work for businesses with fewer than 50 employees or have not been at their jobs long enough to qualify. And part-time workers are also not covered because of the requirement that they work at least 1,250 hours per year. In addition, the FMLA does not provide job protection for other important family responsibilities such as parent-teacher conferences or driving an elderly parent to the doctor.

It is not just enough for individual employers to provide time off for family responsibilities, we must make it the norm and one way to do that is to expand FMLA to cover more people. Everyone who works will most likely face caregiving responsibilities during their careers and it is about time we had workplaces that reflect that. 

Several expansions of FMLA are being considered include:

  • Allowing FMLA leave for victims of violent crimes and domestic violence to attend court
  • Providing FMLA benefits to domestic partners
  • Expand the definition of family to include grandparents and other kin
  • Allow for leave to be used for school functions such as parent-teacher conferences
  • Drop the employer threshold from 50 to 25 or 15
  • Decrease the hours worked requirement so that part-time workers can be covered
  • Grants to states to create their own paid leave programs
  • Make some or all of it paid

What, if any, expansion to FMLA is most important to you?

Posted in Families, Successful Workplaces, Uncategorized, Worklife Balance | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Military Caregivers Get More Time Off

Posted by espressodog on November 13, 2009

hunky male veteranAs of October 29, families of both wounded veterans and active service members can access 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their wounded family member. In 2008, Congress approved the first ever expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) extending leave to family members caring for wounded service members or a family member preparing for deployment. This year, Congress expanded the military family leave provision of the FMLA to a more broadly defined category of military family members.

Congress moved with surprising speed this year to pass legislation to expand the situations in which an employee may take military caregiver leave under FMLA. The “Supporting Military Families Act of 2009″ was introduced in the House and Senate in late July. It was then attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010, which passed both houses of Congress and was signed by the President on October 28.

The 2008 expansion of FMLA established two forms of military-related FMLA leave — exigency leave and military caregiver leave. Exigency leave was originally limited to families of National Guard or Reserves members. It is now available to families of all active duty service members. Military caregiver leave was originally limited to families of current service members. It is now available to families of wounded veterans as well. The 2009 expansion also expands the potential period during which FMLA caregiver leave might be provided. Now, eligible employees may take FMLA caregiver leave for up to five years after the veteran ends active duty. This addresses an employees’ need to take leave to care for a veteran whose service-connected injury or illness first manifested itself after the service member became a veteran. These changes are effective immediately

Provisions of the recently passed Supporting Military Families Act include:

  • Employees will be entitled to take military caregiver leave to care for family members who were injured on active duty in the military for up to five years after their separation from military service. Currently, military caregiver leave is available only to care for injured family members who are still in the military.
  • Military caregiver leave will also be allowed when the family member suffered from a preexisting serous injury or illness that was aggravated by his or her active duty service in the military. Under the current U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations, employees aren’t entitled to leave under these circumstances.
  • Employees will be entitled to qualifying exigency leave when a family member who is in the regular armed forces is deployed to a foreign country. Currently, such leave is available only when a family member is called to active duty in the National Guard or military reserves.
  • Qualifying exigency leave will be available when the employee’s family member is a member of the National Guard or military reserves and called to active duty in a foreign country. The requirement that service members be called to active duty “in a foreign country” replaces the current requirement that they be called to active duty “in support of a contingency operation.”

Employers that are covered by the FMLA will need to notify employees of the changes and revise their policies and procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with these new requirements. FMLA applies to all public agencies, including state, local and federal employers, local education agencies (schools), and private-sector employers who employed 50 or more employees. The family member taking this form (or any form) of FMLA leave must be an “eligible employee,” meaning that the employee has worked for the employer for at least 12 months, has worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period preceding the leave, and works at a worksite with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the site.

Posted in Uncategorized, Worklife Balance | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »