HR Administration

An FMLA Affair

By Max Mihelich

Feb. 10, 2014

Twenty years after the Family and Medical Leave Act gave employees 12 unpaid weeks off work to deal with family-related issues, a new bill introduced in Congress in late 2013 would provide workers 12 weeks of paid leave to tend to those personal or family illnesses.

If the proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act is approved, part-time, low-wage and even contingent workers would be eligible for the benefits.

“Only 12 percent of all workers had access to paid family leave in 2012, and it was available to only 4 percent of individuals working in the lowest-paying jobs. Workers who lack paid family leave face lost wages or even job loss when they miss work because of their own illness or to care for an ill child or parent,” according to the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.

The bill seeks to address sex discrimination in the distribution of leave benefits as well as reduce the disparity between men and women who take time off for caregiver duties.

Under the so-called Family Act, workers on leave would receive 66 percent of their monthly wages up to a capped amount of $1,000 each week. The money would come from a Social Security program funded by employer and employee payroll contributions of two-tenths of one percent each, or about 2 cents of every $10 earned.

Wages would only be taxed up to a cap of $117,000, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration. This means the maximum annual contribution for a high-wage earner would be $234 using 2014 numbers.

The plan is based on similar programs in California and New Jersey. A majority of employers in California report that paid leave for employees has had either a positive or neutral effect on their business, according to the proposed legislation.

At deadline, the bill was scheduled for separate House and Senate committee hearings.

Max Mihelich is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Mihelich on Twitter at @workforcemax.

Max Mihelich is a writer in the Chicago area.

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