The financial impossibility of taking unpaid leave is the single most common reason workers give for not taking leave when they need it, according to the Department of Labor’s Technical Report in November of 2013. The “Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act” (the FAMILY Act), introduced in the Senate on December 12, 2013, would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year to qualifying workers for the birth or adoption of a new child, the serious illness of an immediate family member, or a worker’s own medical condition.
Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. There is a continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. The purpose of FMLA is to prevent employees from losing their jobs and benefits as a result of extenuating circumstances. However, FMLA coverage is limited. FMLA includes private employers that have at least 50 employees in 20 or more work weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and public employers regardless of the number of employees. Even if the employer meets the requirements for FMLA, for an employee to be eligible for the benefits, the employee must have recorded at least 1,250 hours of work for the employer in the preceding 12 months and must work in an area where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. Furthermore, the employee must have a qualifying reason for leave under FMLA.
The FAMILY Act would cover private and public companies, no matter their size. The benefits would be available to every individual who has earned any income from employment or self-employment in the 12 months prior to applying for benefits and is insured for Social Security Disability Insurance. The FAMILY Act would allow part-time and lower-wage workers access to benefits if their employer’s size or the length of time with the employer would make them ineligible for the FMLA benefits. The FAMILY Act’s wage replacement rate builds on lessons from state paid leave programs in California and New Jersey. The program would be funded by employee and employer payroll contributions of 0.2 percent of wages, or two cents for every $10 earned. This will amount to an average contribution of approximately $2 per week per worker from a worker’s paycheck.
The program created through the FAMILY Act would run parallel to FMLA, but it would be separate. Individuals who qualify for FMLA leave would also be able to apply for FAMILY Act benefits. We at Karen McKeithen Schaede Attorney at Law, PLLC will keep you up-to-date on the bill’s progress.