Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, June 28, 2007

FMLA Feedback, Not Regulations — And Another Prediction

Information, but no proposed regulations — that seems to be the result of the DOL's request for feedback on how the FMLA is working. See the full report at Family and Medical Leave Act; information request; report.

According to the DOL the main areas of response were about three primary topics:
  1. gratitude from employees who have used family and medical leave and descriptions of how it allowed them to balance their work and family care responsibilities, particularly when they had their own serious health condition or were needed to care for a family
  2. a desire for expanded benefits--e.g., to provide more time off, to provide paid benefits, and to cover additional family members;
  3. frustration by employers about difficulties in maintaining necessary staffing levels and controlling attendance problems in their workplaces as a result of one particular issue--
    unscheduled intermittent leave used by employees who have chronic health conditions.

The AP story as printed on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website summarizes the report as Medical leave program generally popular, which I don't think really reflects the view of most major employers.

Senator Chris Dodd one of the original authors of FMLA is teaming with Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska to offer a proposal that would create an insurance fund to allow 8 weeks of FMLA leave to be paid. Anyone who says that paid FMLA leave would not result in considerable more use and a multiplication of current employer problems, is either not being realistic or honest, or both.

Still, the political reality is that there is not going to be any "fix" for the foreseeable future that is not accompanied by some sort of expansion in benefits — be it paid leave, more employers covered or longer unpaid leave. And to make matters even worse for employers — if I had to choose which was more likely, expansion of benefits with or without a fix for employers, I would place my money on the latter.


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