FMLA: Supporting Families and Improving Retention
A cool, calm, and compliant culture is not only good for your bottom line, it helps companies care for their employees who make the business successful. One of the most stressful situations employees can face is when facing a serious health condition that would require them to take time away from work to care for themselves or a family member.
When the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was signed into law 23 years ago, it provided job protection to eligible employees that needed to take an extended leave of absence without risking their job. Not only does this law allow companies to care for their team members, but it also enables more women to enter and stay in the workforce and stimulates the economy by enabling families to earn more per household.
On the 20th anniversary of the Act being signed into law Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said the FMLA has “had an enormous impact, letting tens of millions of workers take leave when they needed it the most, and changing the culture in this country. Those are women who needed medical care during difficult pregnancies, fathers who took time to care for children fighting cancer, adult sons and daughters caring for frail parents, and workers taking time to recover from their own serious illnesses. Because of the FMLA, their health insurance continued and their jobs were waiting when they returned to work.”
Who is taking medical leave?
A study from Department of Labor in 2013 found these results:
Not only does this law allow companies to care for their team members, but it also enables more women to enter and stay in the workforce and stimulates the economy by enabling families to earn more per household.
Women made up 56 percent of employees who took leave in the past year
The rate of leave taking among men has increased in small but steady increments in the 20 years since the FMLA was enacted.
57% of employees reported taking leave for their own illness
Twenty-two percent said they took leave for reasons related to a new child (including pregnancy, birth, adoption or foster care), and 19 percent reported taking leave to care for a parent, spouse or child with a serious health condition.
Most leaves were relatively short
Forty percent of workers reported they were away from work for 10 days or less; 70 percent were back at work within 40 days. Only women who took leave to care for a new child reported taking longer leaves, averaging about 58 days; men who took leave to care for a new child took average leaves of about 20 days.
66% reported receiving at least some pay while on leave.
However, there are significant gaps that hurt middle and lower income families: 54 percent of workers in middle and lower income families (median family income less than $62,500 per year) reported that they did not receive any pay while on leave, compared to just 18 percent of workers in higher income families.
46% of workers who needed leave but did not take it said they were unable to afford unpaid leave.
Nearly one-fifth were worried they might lose their jobs, despite the FMLA’s guarantee of job protection.
90% of worksites covered by the FMLA
reported that compliance with the FMLA has had a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on “employee productivity, absenteeism, career advancement and morale, as well as the business’ profitability.” More than one-third reported a positive effect.
The FMLA was definitely a turning point in how companies think about work life balance for employees and enabled more women retain their jobs after the birth of a child. Although the current FMLA standards provide leave without pay, the movement now is towards paid leave. This would further support families who are dealing with birth or sickness and need to take extended leave without fear of termination when they are in particular need of support and compassion.
The issue is how businesses support this
As new laws are enacted and enforced, companies are working to find a balance between supporting businesses and giving employees the time they need to support their families. Ultimately, you can support your employees and your corporate compliance needs by educating your workforce about their rights under your FMLA policies, training your supervisors on supporting FMLA requests, and tracking time during leave to support your business initiatives. Let us help you with each of those initiatives!
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