Frugal Lifestyle Guide 1

Family First! Family and Medical Leave Act

It has been a long and winding road for maternity leave in the United States. A road that continues to be tumultuous for any proposed legislation hopeful to become national law. Making matters more frustrating, our developed-country counterparts around the globe offer a cornucopia of benefits for their citizens. While the US does have some semblance of mandatory leave, the law has stipulations that exclude a large chunk of the workforce, and for those who do qualify have unpaid leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is the first federal law addressing medical leave. Passing in 1993, FMLA guarantees employees (who qualify) 12 unpaid weeks away from their job without the risk of being terminated. In addition to providing protection for maternity and paternity leave, the law also covers leave for an employee who has adopted a child, an employee that is tending to a family member that has gotten ill and for employees themselves that have temporarily become disabled or ill.

Now, in order to take advantage of these rather meek benefits, a person must meet certain milestones in their employment. First being that they have worked with their current employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months. The second requirement is that the company must have at least 50 employees under their belt. This head count can be tallied at one location or at other locations within a 75-miles radius. A final wrinkle in the FMLA tapestry, is any employee whose salary is in the top 10-percent of the company may be excluded from these benefits.

As you may have noticed, the eligibility requirements leave out those employed at smaller companies, those that work part-time or contingent work and those who are relatively new hires with their company. According to The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, “about 60-percent of workers are estimated to be eligible for FMLA leave”. So FMLA doesn’t have the best coverage for its intended audience, what can you do?

There are rays of sunshine piercing through an otherwise bleak forecast of nationwide paid medical leave. While there have not been any significant upgrades to FMLA since its induction in 1993, states and cities are taking up the mantle to provide more benefits for their residents. As of this posting, three states go beyond FMLA and offer paid leave to their workers—California, Rhode Island and New Jersey. New York will join this list January 1st of 2018.  In these states, the funds are raised by employee contributions and these taxes are set aside for the state’s leave fund, and when the time comes, employees can draw out of this fund.

If you don’t live in any of these four states (and rather not wait around another couple decades for improvements to be made to FMLA) one option could be to look for employment at a larger, nationwide company. Companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, American Express, Netflix and other behemoths have been leading the charge to offer paid medical leave for their employees. Permanent employees at these companies enjoy anywhere from 12 weeks to 26 weeks of paid time off for medical reason.

Though there hasn’t been much progress made on a national level for paid medical leave, we can all take solace knowing that individual states and companies recognize its importance and are taking strides to alleviate the problem. Perhaps one day, as a country, we can finally see this issue resolved.



Posted in: Information

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