How the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Fails Today’s Employees
The Family & Medical Leave Act, FMLA, passed in 1993 made a significant difference for workers in the 1990's but doesn’t work today. What could have changed so much in just twenty two years? Everything.
FMLA covers employers of private companies with greater than 50 employee, government workers and school personnel. Today most employees work for small companies with 20 or fewer employees. Many of today’s workers are working multiple part time jobs, contract workers or some other new form of self employment. FMLA passed with an emphasis on creating “work family life balance”. However numerous economic downturns and continued economic uncertainty have corroded the law’s intent.
FMLA beyond Parental Leave
Work/family life balance is clearly supported by the criteria for FMLA benefits. However today’s FMLA eligible employee is facing long term care needs of military personnel, senior adults and disabled family members. How many times have you heard a story like this.
‘My mother lives many States away from me. I decided to use all of my accumulated vacation time to visit her. My friends and neighbors agreed to help out getting the kids to and from school and my spouse picked up many of the household tasks that I usually perform. I leave my family and work feeling certain that I would be returning soon. I arrive at my mother’s place and find things are not what I expected. She is struggling in ways I never anticipated. My mother and I have lots of work to do and her health is declining. I have exhausted all my vacation time but I can’t leave. What should I do.’
Family size is shrinking FAST
Today there are fewer caregivers for each person in need of care than ever before in country’s history. In 2015 averages three caregivers but by 2030 that number drops to 1.7 caregivers. That means there are fewer family members to share the responsibility for caring for our vulnerable members. More Americans choose to remain childless. Many of today’s caregivers are caring for aunts, uncles, in-laws or step relatives who are in need of care.
Consider today that more than half of Baby Boomers never married or are not presently married that must rely more on friends and distant family members for support.
Financial impact and other tough choices
The ‘average’ caregiver is female, 49 years old and employed. If she is among the one in five single parent families, she and her children have a higher likelihood of living in poverty when becoming a caregiver to others. FMLA covers workers employed at least 1250 hours in a twelve month period at an employer of 24 months or more. Now the calculations become a bit of a negotiation between the employer and employee. What employee today can walk away on unpaid leave to care for someone living on a fixed income for an unknown period of time with the constant stress of worrying that their job will be waiting after caregiving has ended.
FMLA “work/family life balance” Redesign
There are no easy answers to this conundrum. Let’s get creative. Employers need to retain dedicated skilled employees so how about creating new Employee Assistant Program benefits?
Employees can work remotely on flexible schedules to allow daytime hours for caregiving demands. Our communities can participate with respite care and certified professional caregivers. Insurance companies can pay family caregivers to provide the high quality family based care at a fraction of the cost of professional services.
REUNIONCare is an integral part of the new FMLA design. REUNIONCare platform organizes all care team members to family members for 24/7 communication. We are changing the way we care for each other.