Job-protected time off from work helps people balance the demands of work with the need to take care of themselves and family members, particularly in times of illness. Policymakers at both the federal and state levels have addressed this issue in various ways.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to some workers who have serious medical conditions, care for someone with such a condition, or have a new child. Employers are required to maintain their workers’ health insurance on the same terms as during active employment. They must also have the same, or a substantially similar, job available on the employee’s return to work.
However, many workers are not covered by FMLA. They include those who work for employers with fewer than 50 employees and workers caring for individuals outside their immediate family, such as extended family, partners, neighbors, and friends. They also include those who cannot afford to take unpaid leave and miss a paycheck. Some states have enacted laws that offer greater protections than the federal law.
States have led the way on offering paid leave, with many states and localities adopting paid sick days and other paid leave programs. These are usually funded by utilizing preexisting temporary disability insurance programs which are financed by additional payroll taxes and mostly paid for by employees.
Job-Protected Leave: Policy
Family and medical leave
Policymakers should improve the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and state FMLAs by such measures as making the law apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees and covering all primary caregivers to include extended family and close affinity relationships.
Policymakers should enact paid family leave programs, as long as adequate funding is available and their creation would not jeopardize adequate funding of or benefits under preexisting social insurance programs.
Proposals to help working caregivers must protect current benefits and the rights workers enjoy under the Fair Labor Standards Act and other fair employment laws.