Job-protected time off from work helps people balance work demands with the need to take care of themselves and family members. This can be critical 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 leave. FMLA applies 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, employers are not required to pay their workers during their time off.
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. Those who cannot afford to take unpaid leave cannot take advantage of FMLA.
Many states and localities have enacted laws mandating paid sick days or offering family and medical programs that provide more protections than the federal program. These programs often utilize 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. They could extend the law to apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees. They could also expand it to cover all primary caregivers including extended family and those with close affinity relationships.
Policymakers should enact paid family leave programs as long as adequate funding is available. Their creation should not jeopardize adequate funding of benefits under existing 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.
Sick leave and other paid time off
Policymakers should require employers to provide employees with a reasonable amount of paid time off.