Tuesday, February 5, 2013

FMLA 20th Anniversary Celebration

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which President Clinton signed it into law on February 5, 1993.

For the specifics of the FMLA, please read more here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/ 

The FMLA works. Workers have used it more than 100 million times to take critical time off to care for family members or to recuperate from their own illnesses, without putting their jobs at risk or losing their health insurance.[i]

Presbyterians have long supported policies that promote healthy families, particularly as they relate to issues of employment. In 2004, the 216th General Assembly urged the church at all levels to "advocate for local, state, and federal legislation that might strengthen family life," including:

"Induc[ing]  employers  to offer  more  flexible work  hours,  more  paid  leave for  the care  of dependent  persons  and child-related activities, more telecommuting  options, more possibilities for part-time jobs with prorated wages and  benefits,  family-supporting wages for all workers, and more available, affordable, and flexible child care programs.[ii]

The FMLA is an important milestone of family-friendly legislation that makes it all the more possible to care for our families and work outside the home.  Most people have interacted with the FMLA through parental leave (both for birth or adoption of a child), and in addition to providing for time to care for the arrival of a new child, FMLA also provides for workers to take protected, unpaid leave to care for a sick parent, spouse, or child, or to recuperate from their own serious illness.

Think Progress' Infographic on Paid Leave in Developed Nations
But not all workers can afford to take the unpaid leave the FMLA ensures and about 40 percent of workers are not even eligible for FMLA, because they work in organizations with fewer than 50 employees or are otherwise exempted from FMLA’s protections.[iii] 

As we celebrate the great strides through the passage of the FMLA 20 years ago, we must also look forward, making efforts to make U.S. family policy even more family-friendly. Of the developed nations of the world, the U.S. is the only nation that does not mandate paid leave for the birth of a child. 

With your help, we can both celebrate the traction this issue has gained over the years and also move into a future where healthy families have are better sustained, supported, and nurtured.

"We envision a society in which families assume primary responsibility for the care and guidance of their own members, supported by other citizens, members of faith communities, and social institutions. It is preferable that those institutions with the best combination of knowledge of the family situation and adequate resources respond to family needs.ii

[ii] from "Transforming Families," 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Minutes, 2004, pp. 759-760.
[iii] “Parental Leave Policies in 21 Countries: Assessing Generosity and Gender Equality,” by Rebecca Ray, Janet C. Gornick, and John Schmitt, published by Center for Economic and Policy Research, http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/parental_2008_09.pdf