Should Paid Leave Become Law?

Some states are considering legislation requiring employers to provide paid family leave to employees, according to a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The editorial says such proposals aren't the way to go because they'll prove too pricey for employers, and invite fraud and abuses by dishonest employees.

Meanwhile, an article in the New York Times recounts the findings of a survey on the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law that provides unpaid time off for employees at businesses with 50 or more workers. The Department of Labor survey found employers and employees divided over FMLA: Workers faulted the law for not offering longer leaves with pay, and employers said their operations have suffered when employees frequently take leave.

Family leave policies, whether paid or unpaid, at the state or federal levels, are a hot-button issue for both employees and employers. Is there room for compromise?

Meeting in the Middle

Last month I wrote about paid sick days, and a number of readers responded with insightful input about what's going on in their workplaces. Some spoke of workers abusing sick time, others talked about a need for policies that don't penalize workers who do get sick. There's no easy solution, it seems, when it comes to paid leave policies. 

While there are bound to be abuses of leave policies--paid or not--I believe fair policies that show respect and trust for employees will lead most workers to respond in kind. A workplace that fosters mutual respect is always a good thing.

That's not to say a one-size-fits-all policy at the federal level would work. Given employers' frustration with an unpaid leave law, the prospects for a federal law on paid leave seem less than dim. States are better equipped to know what suits businesses and employees within their borders.

In any case, the debate must continue for the good of the American worker and workplace.   

Family and Medical Leave Act

According to the New York Times article:

Victoria A. Lipnic, the assistant labor secretary for employment standards, said the department had no intention of proposing any new leave regulations “imminently.”

“There was a general overall finding that this law works pretty well and is serving a lot of people that it was meant to serve,” Ms. Lipnic said.

The report estimated that 6 million to 13 million workers took leaves in 2005 under the act. The report noted that just over half of the nation’s 146 million workers were eligible for leave. Many are ineligible because they work part-time or work at businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Ms. Lipnic said if there was any surprise, it was the extent to which businesses complained about employees who took frequent leaves.

“We heard a lot of complaints from industry sectors like transit and public safety about the problems that these unscheduled, intermittent leaves created,” she said.

The report said, “This is the most serious area of friction between employers and employees seeking to use F.M.L.A. leave.”















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