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(Alexandria, Va., Sept. 18, 2007)—Expanded leave benefits for military families is a desirable and feasible goal, if current laws are amended to balance the needs of employees and employers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world's largest association of human resource professionals.
As Congress takes steps to ensure leave coverage for members of the National Guard, Reservists and their families, underlying problems in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) need to be corrected.
In testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee, SHRM member Christine Vion-Gillespie said that if the pending legislative proposals fail to address long-standing shortcomings in current law, military families and employers will face more uncertainty about leave coverage. Vion-Gillespie is an employee relations and compliance manager with Cary, N.C.-headquartered software giant SAS Institute, Inc.
"Employees called to active duty, along with their families, face difficult and unique challenges that need to be addressed," said Vion-Gillespie. "At the same time, we have an obligation to provide all employees and employers with clear, predictable and practical leave requirements that correct rather than exacerbate current frustrations."
The hearing evaluated whether FMLA provides adequate policy to support family members who care for injured military men and women.
According to a 2007 survey by SHRM, 47 percent of HR professionals reported problems in interpreting the medical provisions of the FMLA and the law's conflicting rules. In particular, one of the most serious challenges occur in administering unscheduled, intermittent leave which is difficult to track, anticipate and make adjustments to in the workplace.
Another area of frustration is what constitutes a 'serious health condition.' According to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2005, illnesses such as a common cold, the flu or non-migraine headache are not covered. However, in 2006, DOL said the definition includes any condition resulting in a three-day work absence and doctor's visit.
"We need to do the right thing for our service men and women, and their families, who are making great sacrifices for the nation," said Vion-Gillespie. "This will require a comprehensive approach; we need to make sure laws like the FMLA work as intended."
SHRM has pledged its support and expertise in working with Congress to craft leave policies that assist military personnel, their families and all employees, as well as employers and the caregivers of injured service men and women.
To review SHRM's testimony, visit the SHRM Government Affairs Web page at http://www.shrm.org/government/. For more questions or interviews to discuss SHRM's workplace and legislative priorities, please contact SHRM Media Affairs at (703) 535-6273 or (703) 535-6356.
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