Family Medical Leave Act – Overview
Illnesses are unpredictable. This often creates huge problems for workers without the facility of paid leaves. This usually puts them in a dilemma whether to save their job or to take care of their health, or the health of a loved one. Such situations often cause apprehension regarding their next paycheck too. With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, employees are increasingly requesting paid sick leaves to care for family members affected by a coronavirus.
Although Congress passed a temporary emergency paid sick leave for family members to some workers, tens of thousands of other workers had been neglected. This also made the US the only country in the world that didn’t provide guaranteed paid leaves to employees.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a labor law under which employers with over 50 employees on the roll are required to provide employees with unpaid leaves for serious family health situations. The US Department of Labor’s Wage and hour Division handles all FMLA initiatives.
Employees can avail of these paid family medical leaves for pregnancy, adoption, foster care placement, military leave or family and personal illnesses. The act also provides continued health insurance coverage and job security when the employee is on a paid sick leave to attend to ill family members. The aim of this act is to provide employees and their families with the time and money to deal with serious illnesses, emergencies and also to guide employers.
Benefits of Family and Medical Leave Act
Under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee is assured of job security when they need to take extensive leaves to attend to personal or family matters. The law assures qualified employees of up to 12 weeks of paid leave for childbirth, adoption and family or personal illness.
This act also helps an employee to return to work after their leave of absence is over. In case the particular job is unavailable, then the employer is bound to provide the employee with a job that has equal pay and status.
To be eligible for benefits under FMLA, the employee should be employed by an employer with over 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius from the work site and the employee should have worke3d for the employee for at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months.
Aim of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA aims to assure workers of employment when they need to take a leave of absence for a significant number of days. This is an effort to allay the employee’s fears of having to choose between their family or their jobs, in such situations when they need to care for their spouses, children, parents or dependents from extended family due to illness.
This act has greatly benefited single-parent households, especially for single mothers who are gainfully employed. Women play an extensive role in family health and are the primary caregiver in most households in America. For example, the act allows women to take leaves of absence in case of childbirth, or to complete the adoption process, with the assurance of returning to their job at the end of the leave.
The act also takes into account the immense role that men also play in ensuring a harmonious household.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) aims to:
- Creating a balance between work responsibilities and the needs of the employee’s family. This is effective to promote stability and financial security for their families and also to encourage national interests in ensuring family integrity.
- Entitle employees to take sufficient medical leaves, such as for the birth of their child, or for adoption purposes, to take care of their child, spouse, the parent or any other dependent from their extended family who is suffering from severe health disorders.
- Complete its purposes in a way that takes into account the legitimate interest of employers.
- Accomplish these requirements in a way that is consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, to minimize potential employee discrimination on basis of gender by assuring leaves for medical reasons are available without any cut in the usual pay scale.
- Promote equal employment opportunities for men and women, according to relevant clauses in the Act.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been a boon for employees across the country. The new amendment to the 1993 labor law has relieved the worries of thousands of workers related to their employment when they are forced to take leaves of absence to attend to medical emergencies for themselves and their family members.