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House subcommittee hears testimony supporting FMLA expansion

A Congressional meeting to expand the FMLA illustrates the continuing trend toward such expansion.

Posted February 21, 2020

On February 11, the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee heard testimony on expanding the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The “Balancing Work, Health, and Family: The Case for Expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act” hearing supported changes to the FMLA including the following:

  • Cover more (or all) employers,
  • Make all employees eligible for leave,
  • Entitle employees to take leave to care for more family members including domestic partners, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren, and
  • Add to the eligible reasons why workers take leave to include, for example, school events and child bereavement.

Committee members also discussed legislative solutions, like the FAMILY Act, that provide wage replacement for all workers while on leave. The wages could be paid through a leave insurance plan.

The testimony reflected many of the state leave provisions, which have continued to add to the complex nature of employee leave laws in general.

While much of the testimony was in favor of such expansion, some did criticize rigid one-size-fits all rules and mandates, citing unintended consequences. They indicated that employees and their families fare better when they have choices, and not inflexible requirements. Alternatives presented included flexible work schedules, working remotely, and working part time.

The meeting was further evidence of a push toward possible changes to the FMLA. Such changes would, however, need to come through Congress and, currently, such measures would likely not make it through the Senate. The meeting does, however, illustrate the continuing trend.

For reference, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave “Family” Act (HR 1185/S 463), would run parallel with the FMLA, with all employees who have enough earnings being eligible, and provide wage replacement through payroll contributions of employer and employee.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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