FMLA’s 25th Anniversary Reboots Discussion of Paid Leave

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. February 5, 2018
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The Family and Medical Leave Act's (FMLA's) enactment on Feb. 5, 1993, was a major milestone for employees, who gained job-protected—and unpaid—time off to care for themselves and close family members. Twenty-five years later, many are now calling for the time off to be paid. We've gathered the most recent news from SHRM Online and other respected news and other outlets on the FMLA and paid leave proposals.

President Trump's Recommendation

During President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, he said, "Let us support working families by supporting paid family leave." Last March, Trump called for six weeks of paid parental leave for mothers, fathers and new adoptive parents. The benefit would apply only when employers don't offer paid maternity leave and would be paid for by reforms to unemployment insurance. His proposal has not advanced in Congress. (SHRM Online)

Ivanka Trump, Rubio Support Paid Family Leave

Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, has long been a supporter of paid family leave and now has a staunch ally on Capitol Hill, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. He backs letting individuals draw Social Security benefits for leave in the event of a new baby or other family-related matters and subsequently delay their Social Security when they reach retirement age. He noted that his proposal would not force companies to provide the paid time off. (Politico)

Proposed Paid Insurance Fund

At the other end of the spectrum, the National Partnership for Women & Families supports a measure that would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income when they take time for their own serious health conditions, pregnancy and recovery from childbirth; the serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner; the birth or adoption of a child; and/or for military caregiving and leave purposes from a paid insurance fund. The proposal, introduced as the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, would be funded by employer and employee payroll contributions. (National Partnership for Women & Families)

Middle Course

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has called for a middle course that would allow more flexibility on the part of employers and employees. The Workflex in the 21st Century Act addresses the needs of businesses and workers by providing predictability for businesses and generous paid leave and workflex options for the workforce. The bill would provide more generous paid leave than all state paid sick leave laws, extend paid leave to all full-time and part-time employees, guarantee all employees a flexible work option such as telecommuting, require businesses to bear all costs, and complement protections under the FMLA. Employer participation would be voluntary and businesses that opt to offer the paid-leave plan would be able to follow a federal framework for paid leave and workflex, as opposed to conflicting state and local laws. (SHRM Online)

Some Employers Provide Paid Leave Voluntarily

While momentum is building for a paid leave law of some kind, some employers offer paid FMLA leave of their own accord. For example, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago as of Jan. 1 started offering six weeks paid time off for those who are eligible for FMLA. Chicago's YWCA hopes that other companies will follow suit in addition to supporting a federal mandate. (Chicago ABC 7 Eyewitness News)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Coordinating Leaves of Absence]

FMLA Negotiations

SHRM was able to make improvements to the FMLA when different proposals were put forward 25 years ago, according to former SHRM President and CEO Sue Meisinger. But she said she wished SHRM could have made more headway in persuading legislators to allow more flexibility in comp time. "There was an inability to get public policy makers to understand that employees want the option of overtime pay or time off," she said. "The fact that we've never been able to get them to understand that is a disappointment." (SHRM Online)

 

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