The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 has several gaps that, according to some, seriously limit its effectiveness, and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is out to fix that.
The gaps essentially make it very difficult, if not impossible, for most working Americans to take advantage of the protections offered under the FMLA, DeLauro thinks. To rectify things, she has introduced into Congress HR 3712 — the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act of 2013.
The proposed legislation would guarantee workers regardless of the size of their employer up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year. This is a major departure from FMLA of 1993, which proscribed no protection for employees at small businesses.
The dough to fund this new worker protection law would come from small weekly payroll contributions from every employee and employer. If adopted as currently written, the law would enable workers to collect benefits equal to two-thirds of their monthly wages (capped monthly at $1,000 a week).
HR 3712 addresses the conundrum created by FMLA of ’93, DeLauro says. Because the original legislation doesn’t cover all workers and doesn’t guarantee paid time off, most workers who have access to family or medical leave can’t take it because they can’t afford time away from work.
“In nearly two-thirds of families with children, all adults in the household work,” the bill tells us, laying out the case that most households don’t have caregivers available to help out with a family or medical situation.
“A mere 12 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have access to short-term disability insurance provided by their employer to use for their own illnesses,” the bill says. “Without paid family and medical leave, many workers are unable to take time away from work to care for newborn children, ill or aging parents and relatives, or themselves.”
The objectives of HR 3712 are as follows:
- To help working families, including single working parents and dual-earner families, afford to take time away from work to provide care for a family member and be good workers.
- To provide workers with a reasonable level of wage replacement during time away from work for a serious health condition, for the birth or adoption of a child, for the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition, for the care of an injured service member, or for qualifying exigencies arising from the deployment of a service member.
- To address sex discrimination, promote the goal of equal employment opportunity for women and men, and to provide relief when employers violate the law.
The bill’s benefits would be available to any employee who:
- Is insured for Social Security Disability Insurance when the SSDI application is filed.
- Has earned any income from employment or self-employment in the 12 months before applying for benefits.
- Is/was engaged in qualified caregiving.
The bill, its author claims, would do all this “in a manner that accommodates the legitimate interests of employers.”
The legislation been referred to the House Ways and Means committee. The Senate version resides, for now, in the finance committee.