Family/Medical Leave policies in the United States
The Family and Medical Leave Act was designed in 1993 and it gives employees a chance to take an unpaid leave. Its main objective is to enable employees balance their career and family. It covers both private and public sectors. Employees who may not be able to perform their work to their maximum potential because of various health concerns, have a sick relative that they have to take care of or a newborn have a chance to take unpaid leave. There are various requirements that a person has to meet before they are eligible for the leave.
First, he or she should be employed in a business with fifty or more employees within a seventy-five mile radius. A person can be granted with up to twelve weeks per year of unpaid leave. Secondly, an employee should have worked for their employer for more than twelve months (not necessarily consecutive). Thirdly, they should have worked for at least twenty-five hours in a week or for 1250 hours in the course of the twelve months. There are exceptions for instance, those who work in schools have limitations and it can be difficult to get leave near the end of the term. The act only assures an employee of job security since it is unpaid. However, some employers are kind enough to offer paid leave in addition to job security.
The employer should make sure that all the benefits that were accorded the employee before leave are still intact when he or she comes back to work. Some states have reduced the number of employees that have to be employed by the business before they are eligible for the unpaid leave. These include Washington and Minnesota among others. In 2008, the Family Medical Leave Act was amended. The federal FMLA limits family to include the immediate family only. Some states have however changed that and they have included other members of the family such as parents in law grandparents, domestic partners, civil union partners and siblings. These states include California New Jersey, Hawaii among others.
There is no parental leave in the US. This Act covers both health and maternity issues. As expected, various people and groups have criticized the Act and it has faced a lot of controversy. One of the major limitations is that it does not cover those in the private sector who work in companies with less than fifty employees. Most people who work in small businesses find it hard because they are not eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act. Another controversial topic is that it mostly benefits women than men. However, it is worth noting that not all women are covered.
Some employers find it more expensive to hire women arguing that they are more expensive since they will require more time off than men will. This argument has led to various protests from women who see this as a chance to discriminate against them (Waldfogel, 283). It has also led to the realization that there may be gender disparities at work. Since the leave is unpaid, few people can afford to take it. People need their salaries and many find it difficult to take time off. Small businesses with less than fifty employees are not affected by the act. Most of them provide their own policies, which they are able to work with without any disruptions. However, private businesses with slightly more than fifty employees might find it hard and uneconomical.
A lot of time is going to be spent off work and this means that several resources will be wasted. The government should indeed provide subsidies. The average American worker cannot afford unpaid leave since they have to pay the bills. The government should come up with an incentive and provide paid leave for the employees. Giving employees some time off work to take care of a loved one reduces the stress that the employee has. He or she is then able to produce better results and an overall better performance at work. If the government provided paid leave and encouraged the private sector to do so, it would recover the money spent once the employee resumes work.
Stressed employees do not produce much and the results are low since their minds are preoccupied with worry. Although the private sector may find it difficult to provide paid leave, they can consider some facts. Providing paid leave to an employee will reduce costs associated with health care and employee turnover. Employees will appreciate what their employer is doing and they are likely to go back to the same place of work. Hiring employees is expensive and it takes much time. An employer has to advertise, interview and recruit potential employees. New employees have to undergo training and this takes much time. Therefore, it is a wise decision to retain the ones who already know the business and who the employer can trust since he or she already knows them (Grant, 2002).
The government could also sponsor a day care program. This would provide the mother with an opportunity to go to work after a shorter time. It would also provide the child with an opportunity to learn at an earlier age. It would also provide him or her with an opportunity to interact with other children and learn social skills. This is a good thing because the child will learn how to form friendship at an early age. The child will also learn to be dependent and not look up to his or her mother for everything. The down side to this would be that the mother would not get adequate time to bond with her child and this can have a negative effect on a child’s growth. The child may develop emotional and psychological problems later on in life, especially if the mother chooses to work for the whole day. Despite the controversies, the family medical and leave act does more good than harm. If the government can provided for paid leave, it would be better.
Grant, Jodi. Affordable Policies. Boston Review, February 2002. Web. 13 June 2010
Waldfogel, Jane. “The Impact of the Family and Medical Leave Act.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 1999: 281 – 302. Print