Workplace benefits can balance family, work, and medical needs. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1993, to allow workers to take a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a year, following personal illness or that of a close member of the family while still guarding their employment. This law was updated in 2008 to increase the unpaid leave to 26 weeks, for the workers, their spouse, children, parents, and next of kin in the case of military members who undergo severe injury during work (Dove et al. 298).
Workers are eligible for family and medical leave after working for at least 1,250 hours within a 12-month period. In addition, the worker must be employed in an entity with 50 or more workers in a 75 miles radius. The employee can consider taking an intermittent leave, which entails taking the family and medical leave in time blocks or reducing schedule at work for a certain period (Lopez and Blair 7).
One objective of FMLA is to grant employees flexibility to attend to personal demands. However, the act does not have a provision for employers to pay workers during medical leave. It becomes a challenge for low-wage employees as they struggle to survive (Hayes 3). Thus, taking a leave to connect with the loved ones may become a financial burden.
Employees working for smaller entities are at a disadvantage since the legislation covers only firms with at least 50 workers. Hence, only 59% of employees in the U.S. are entitled for the leave. Given that the law offers job protection to eligible employees, it implies that the remaining 41% risk losing their jobs if they take leave for medical or family reasons (Hayes 3).
Due to these limitations, some states such as , New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey and California initiated a Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) scheme to offer partial wage replacement for workers during medical leave. The State of California was the first to adoptpaid family leave policy in the year 2002, where workers can obtain up to 6 weeks paid leave in case of childbirth or to care for sick family member. New York State was the last to adopt this paid medical leave in 2016, where employees receive up to 12 weeks paid leave (Hayes 3).
Family and Medical Leave Act offer security in employment for majority of people, especially women during childbirth. However, due to absence of leave benefits, many of them are left without income during maternity leave. The situation is worse for women in low wage employment since they have limited access to benefits of private maternity leave in their work place. Reports show that more than half of workers who take medical leaves under FMLA face financial challenges, and hence, they may terminate their leave. In other cases, women in low-income situation turn to other welfare programs, such as Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (Kang et al. 3) to supplementwages during child birth.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) do not recognize challenges facing modern family units such as assisted reproduction. For instance, Congress seeks to ensure that employees caring for children are entitled to the medical leave whether the child is biologically related or legally related. (Shute 96). However, this act may fail to address cases where parents lose a child at birth. FMLA should be amended to include all parents after birth even after losing a child. Besides, surrogates, intended parents, birth mothers, and adoptive parents are categories of relations with varying circumstances and needs, hence maternity leave options should be customized accordingly.
Despite increased public outcry for paid leave, the United States has maintained to no-pay medical leave policy (Whittmore and Nunn 108). A paid medical leave will enhance gender equity by extending rights to fathers and mothers to obtain 12 weeks paid leave. In addition to the payment, other adjustments to the policy should protect jobs during leave, widen eligibility of beneficiaries, especially those with less employment histories, initiate wage replacement rate to enhance coverage.
As it is evident from the discussion, the United States is lagging behind majority of developed countries in regards to protection provision for workers with care-giving responsibilities (Arellano 2). is because; the United States is the only industrialized country without national paid leave. More so, other than in situations of birth, employees can only request leave for themselves, parent or spouse by determining if the illness is regarded as serious under statute of FMLA. Hence, other ongoing illnesses, such as injury and common colds are not applicable. Overall, FMLA is limited in provision of family and medical protection of employees and needs amendments.
Arellano, Janice. “Don’t Leave U.S. Behind: Problems With the Existing Family and Medical Leave Act, and Alternatives to Help Enhance the Employee Work -Family Relationship in the 21st Century.” Journey of Workplace Rights, 2015, pp. 1-13, SAGE Open, doi:10.1177/2158244015581553. Accessed 9 April 2019
Dove, Laura et al. “An Overview of Recent Appellate Court Decisions on the Family and Medical Leave Act: Guidance for Employers.” Labor Law Journal, vol. 67, no.1, 2016, pp. 298-316
Hayes, Jeffrey. “Costs and Benefits of Family and Medical Leave for New Hampshire Workers.” Institute of Women Research, January 6, 2017, pp. 1-27, www.dol.gov/wb/media/NH_Final_Report_2015_Final_Report.pdf. Accessed 9 April 2019
Khan, Ji Young et al. “The Effect of State Paid Maternity Leave on TANF and SNAP use” University of Washington, November 6 2016, pp. 1-20,
Lopez, Patricio and Blair Samantha. “Coordinating Family and Medical Leave.” Nursing Management, vol. 49, no.3, 2018, pp.7-8. doi: 10.1097/01.NUMA.0000530431.99269.75
Shute, Rachel. “ Family and Medical Leave: Examining Recovery and Bonding Time to Promote Healthy Families who Utilize Surrogacy.” Family Law Quarterly, vol. 51, no.1, pp. 95-116
Whitmore, Diane and Nunn Ryann. “Driving Growth through Women Participation”. New York, NY, Hamilton project, 2017.