Based on a very simple concept that families should not have to suffer the choice of either the families they love or the jobs they need, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is proud to celebrate 20 years of helping families to stay financially afloat in times of serious illness, child birth or adoption of a new child. When enacted in 1993, FMLA put a halt to situations where family members were most likely to loss their jobs when dealing with these types of life changing events, and, in doing so, it is recognized as one of the most influential advances in support of working families in our nation’s history.
While the FMLA was very timely and innovative when it began 20 years ago, and heralded as an important milestone, it is now being viewed as a great foundation, upon which to draw from and improve, to not only reflect our diverse family dynamics but also include additional support and services for the unique circumstances that face many of our military families as well. Key tweaks to the bill that will help serve our families better would be:
PAID medical leave – The majority of folks who are eligible to participate choose not to do so because they can’t afford to, since the time allotted for leave is unpaid. In order to receive guaranteed job protection, workers must meet the stipulated work requirements of their employer. Some employers say they are too small a business to provide such job protection in the event of a long absence, or that the employee has not been either on the job long enough or is only in part time status and therefore ineligible for this benefit. How nice it would be for so many if this law covered some paid sick time to include preventative care and paid time off for routine illness.
Women are the ones who appear to take more advantage of this law, however as is the case in many of our families, women are not the top wage earners and when they utilize FMLA, they sometimes end up on public assistance to help keep the family afloat until they are able to start earning again.
What defines “FAMILY” – When announced in 1993, FMLA defined family as spouses, children and parents. The definition of family, for some, now also includes co-habituating with a significant other and in some cases care giving responsibilities that included extended family members as well.
When to use “FMLA” – In looking at making this law more accessible to our families, and a more timely support mechanism for our families today, we need to suggest improvements. As it stands now, the law is very limited as to when, the best scenario for usage, it can be applied for maximum benefit to the family in need.
Most importantly, too many of our family members are forced to go out and work when their efforts are better served either caring for or healing themselves or providing care and attention to loved ones who really need them. The majority of us agree on and accept the need to responsibly care for our families as they depend on us during their illnesses and in times of need, which is why the time is now to shed new light and bring greater resources to FMLA. The health of our nation, as well as the continued growth of our economy, depends on the participation of our families being healthy strong and financially secure.
Please click here to read personal testimonials about how FMLA has affected many of our hard working families.