What Are “Paid Family Leave” Policies?

Airlines and social media companies have already been forced to pay workers time off for family reasons; But, as any parent can tell you, taking those days isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure,…

What Are "Paid Family Leave" Policies?

Airlines and social media companies have already been forced to pay workers time off for family reasons; But, as any parent can tell you, taking those days isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, mothers are more likely to take time off work (especially if they’re taking time off to bond with new children) than fathers, and, sure, people take longer to return to work than they did before, but with the option, most women aren’t in fact committed to the extended absences they face after having children.

What’s that you say? Paid Family Leave doesn’t offer sufficient time off anyway? Well, the Affordable Care Act, which requires small employers to offer 18 weeks of fully paid maternity leave (to a maximum of 67 weeks for larger businesses) helped to ease that burden for women. When health care was the most expensive part of a person’s life, not having access to time off was difficult. Now the cost of health care has fallen significantly in recent years, and employers still offer people the option to fill in for moms or dads on leave, but that much extra leave may still be out of reach.

Stick with us; we’ll explain why here.

What You Need to Know About ‘Paid Family Leave’

According to the website The Family Shower, the Department of Labor in 1991 drafted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the only federal law that pays men and women time off to care for a sick relative or to bond with a child. Because FMLA existed, employers received that right when they hired someone new. However, many people are unaware of the provision because FMLA provides only 12 weeks of time off. Thanks to advances in health care and technology, employers can now pay time off.

Sure, the employee can return to work the day after taking time off, but that doesn’t work for a person who’s really sick. Still, FMLA makes employees eligible for unpaid time off if their employer doesn’t offer the benefit.

The 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act instituted a new portion of FMLA called the Family and Medical Leave Insurance. The idea is that either an employee can purchase short-term disability insurance or an employer can sponsor voluntary employee group insurance plans. Insurance amounts are intended to cover the cost of unpaid leave.

The Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) removed any barriers that employers had previously placed on offering time off for pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions. Then, in 2015, HR 470 became law. The new law added what advocates call an important “variability,” by allowing the federal government to provide authorization for a community-based program similar to FMLA.

What You Can Do to Make FMLA Available to All

In 2016, the FMLA was expanded, making it possible for 15 to 30 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a person with a disability. The law, part of the “Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PL 113-105)) says that for the first two weeks, an employee should continue to work, but thereafter, the FMLA may require that an employee take unpaid leave or that his or her employer contribute to a defined-contribution insurance plan.

In addition to the payments involved in the six weeks of paid leave, you’re likely to get a considerable chunk of your income covered during the other months.

A U.S. Department of Labor spokesman said that as the benefits of FMLA become better understood, they’ll likely be rolled out in phases.

“It’s not a fait accompli that we’ll look to provide these benefits to everyone soon, but our department supports the expansion of FMLA as it’s understood and implemented,” the spokesman said.

We’ve been writing about ways to make family leave more available for almost two decades, and here’s why it’s still important to all of us:

Our Days When Our Kids Never See Me at Work

When How Much I Make Can Affect My Son’s Ability to Read

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