How do we address the financial side of parental family leave? We see this question coming up more and more. The issue is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers employees the option of unpaid leave. While FMLA has helped many people balance the needs of work and family without concern about job security, people who live paycheck to paycheck do not have the means to take an unpaid break. Consequently, many individuals who need leave don’t take it. They can’t afford to do so.
The United States is the only developed country in the world lacking paid family leave. Several states are beginning to look at and discuss this issue. Some states have done more than just look – they have created statutory policies that run concurrent with FMLA to provide paid leave for employees who need time to take care of a new baby or look after a sick immediate family member.
Of interest in this debate about paid family leave is that even the definition of “immediate family” is under discussion. Currently “immediate family” means a parent, child, or spouse. Now there is talk about widening the definition to include siblings, grandparents, and even in-laws.
Some businesses see an opportunity and are stepping up to fill the gap. Silicon Valley technology companies in particular are known to offer generous paid maternity and paternity leave policies. Millennials saw how hard their parents had to work for work-family balance, and as they begin to think about forming families of their own, the possibility of paid time off is very appealing. For employers competing for employees in a tight labor pool, paid parental leave can be an effective recruitment tool.
While we are far from a finding a unified solution for paid parental parental and family leave, clearly a shift is taking place. We anticipate this trend will continue and more states will take it upon themselves to pay for leaves related to parenting or caring for sick family members. It’s also likely that increasing numbers of employers will follow suit and paid leaves will become a more commonly offered benefit.
We are watching this issue carefully. At Creative Benefits, our role is to keep up with the issues and know what’s going on so we can prepare employers for upcoming changes that could impact their businesses. We consult with our clients and assist with program design and implementation. As a trusted partner, our job is to make sure our clients make wise decisions. We consult with clients regularly to assist with program design, implementation, and to be sure to fulfill the ever increasing documentation and reporting requirements needed to prevent unfortunate surprises.
About the author: Kelly Fitzgerald is an Account Manager and FMLA Specialist with Creative Benefits, Inc. She assists clients with Family and Medical Leave Administration and provides consultative services to employers and their employees.