The nation celebrated the 20th anniversary of the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) earlier this year. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the federal law, you should know that it is a big deal. It’s the law that let employees take time off to have a baby or tend to a health issue without the fear of losing his or her job. It has been critical for working parents to maintain work-life balance.
It hasn’t been a perfect law. It only applies to businesses that have more than 50 employees. And, the biggest issue remains that many employees still don’t receive paid sick leave, so while they are eligible to take time off for medical concerns and their job is secure, they can’t afford it.
Workers’ rights groups marked the anniversary with calls to expand the law, and for Congress to pass a new one that would provide paid leave. NPR did an excellent piece on this issue tied to the anniversary called FMLA Not Really Working for Many Employees.
The National Partnership for Women & Families put out a new Q&A guide to the FMLA in honor of the 20th anniversary. The guide is a great resource for employees, employers and anyone looking to learn more about taking FMLA leave and how to navigate the law. It’s one of the best I’ve seen.
FMLA offers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, which workers can use to care for a new baby, a sick family member, or to recover from an illness. Unfortunately, the commission shot down a proposed law earlier this year that would have allowed workers paid sick leave.
Countless mothers I have interviewed, particularly during the recession, wanted to use FMLA for maternity leave. Some found it critical to keeping their jobs and bonding with their babies. Others, low-wage workers living paycheck to paycheck, had to go back to work within days because they couldn’t afford time off.
A friend of mine just got diagnosed with cancer. FMLA will allow her to undergo chemo treatments and know that her job is there for her when she returns. This is a huge relief to her. For my friend, and any other employees who have used this law for legitimate reasons, I’m thankful it exists and you should be too.
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her columns and blog at http://worklifebalancingact.com/.