20 years after FMLA, is work leave helping enough employees?

Pregnancy at work
Nearly half the workers in the country fall outside the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Photo illustration by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law, granting 12 weeks of job protection to workers recovering from an accident, tending to a sick loved one or caring for a new baby.

Since then, FMLA has been used more than 100 million times. Yet nearly half of the workers in the country aren't covered under the law, either because they work part-time or because their employer has fewer than 50 employees.

From Washington Policy Watch:

The policy is further limited by the economic burden unpaid leave places upon workers and their families. U.S. Department of Labor surveys have found that among eligible workers who had a need for leave but did not take it, nearly 78% reported they could not afford to take unpaid time away from work. Employers, for their part, report little difficulty with FMLA.

In surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 90% of employers reported the law had "positive" or "no noticeable" effects on their business' profitability and growth. Further, the majority of employers were able to temporarily reassign the work of an employee on leave to others, rather than recruit and train a short-term replacement.

Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family and a research professor in the Carroll School of Management, will join The Daily Circuit Thursday, March 7, to talk about the future of FMLA. Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values at Work Consortium, will also join the discussion.


FMLA FAQ (U.S. Department of Labor)

FMLA not really working for many employees (NPR)

20 years after FMLA, what's changed and what hasn't? (Harvard Business Review)

FMLA still helping families cope with illness (Miami Herald)

FMLA turns 20, but doesn't go far enough (Women Employed)

FMLA 20 years on: What working families need in 2013 (The Hill)