FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT: THE HOT DEBATE
June 3, 2005
A battle is brewing over that 1993 law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Department of Labor is expected to come out shortly with proposals to revise parts of the law. Some labor and family groups, such as the National Partnership for Women & Families, fear those changes will cause hard-won family leave protections to be lost.
Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), however, say the current law is too vague and vulnerable to employee abuse. The FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for an employee's serious illness or that of an immediate family member, or the birth or adoption of a child. Health insurance must also be continued.
Any changes to the FMLA have the potential to be a big issue, because millions have had illnesses or other life events that fall under FMLA's umbrella:
- In an 18-month period in 1999 and 2000, nearly 24 million Americans took leave from work for an FMLA-covered reason, according to the Labor Department's most recent figures.
- FMLA is often used because not all companies grant sick leave or disability coverage.
- Furthermore, complying with the FMLA cost employers $21 billion in 2004, according to an analysis by the Employment Policy Foundation.
FMLA was passed by Congress and signed by president Bill Clinton in 1993 after nearly 10 years of lobbying from family and labor groups such as the AFL-CIO.
Source: Stephanie Armour, "Family, medical leave act at center of hot debate," USA Today, May 26, 2005
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