The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act – a proposal for paid family and medical leave from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) – would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year to qualifying workers for the birth or adoption of a child, the serious illness of an immediate family member or a worker’s own medical condition. It’s unclear if the FAMILY Act will ever pass in the current Congress but President Barack Obama is clearly in favor of some type of paid leave program for families, having signed an executive order earlier this year extending paid parental leave to federal employees.
“In the workplace, too few women have available maternity leave, but prospects are even worse for paternity leave,” says Scott Behson, a professor of management at Silberman College of Business at Fairleigh Dickinson University and author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide. “So a policy like the FAMILY Act would create a floor that would create much more equity throughout our society.”
In September, Behson and 200 fellow business school professors from across the country signed a letter to Congress urging the legislation’s passage.
While the Family and Medical Leave Act offers 12 weeks of job-protected leave for qualified medical and family reasons, it’s unpaid and it’s available only to those who work at companies with 50 or more employees. Moreover, in order to qualify, workers must be employed at the company for at least 12 months before being eligible to take FMLA leave.
Carol Sladek, partner and work-life consulting lead with Aon Hewitt, believes “it certainly is possible that we’ll see either an increase at the state level or even potentially, at some point, paid family and medical leave at the federal level. Whether that’s imminent versus a little bit longer term is yet to be seen.”
Whatever happens on the paid leave front, the action will happen at the state level, believes Lenny Sanicola, practice leader at WorldatWork.
“I think it’s going to be more of a patchwork among the states,” he says. “It’ll be very difficult to get something at the federal level … as more states have success stories – and California’s [program has] been around for 10 years – I think the state legislatures will be more apt to perhaps consider that.”
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