Employers Concerned About Medical Leave Policy
Employers raised concerns about the impact on productivity of a federal law that gives workers unpaid time off to care for family medical needs, according to a report by the Department of Labor released on Wednesday, USA Today reports.
The report was based on more than 15,000 comments received from employers and workers since December 2006 on the effectiveness of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The law, enacted in 1993, grants up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child, care of a close family member with serious medical problems or employee health concerns. The report found that nearly one-quarter of employees who took time off took leave in short increments, which raised concerns among employers about productivity and cost issues -- particularly in time-sensitive industries such as health care, transportation, delivery and manufacturing.
Employers also voiced concerns about definitions of serious health conditions as defined by the law. Employers said that the law is too vague and that they want to talk with an employee's health care provider to verify the legitimacy of medical conditions. However, workers said they are concerned that such contact would violate medical privacy, according to the report.
In addition, employers stated concerns about time-off policies that require employees to give two days notice after the need for leave is known for unexpected events.
Employers "expressed frustration about the potential for abuse and costs related to unscheduled absences," USA Today reports.
Up to 13 million of the estimated 94 million employees who work in establishments covered by FMLA took leave under the law in 2005. The Labor Department does not have plans to make changes to the law at this time (Armour, USA Today, 6/27).
Debra Ness -- president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, a group that advocates for workplace fairness -- said her group understands that it is a challenge to manage employees with illnesses requiring unplanned absences. "But that is a challenge all employers must meet. It is simply a part of doing business," she added.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said he would review the report, but "time after time, research has shown that the Family and Medical Leave Act is a sound policy that benefits employees and employers alike." Victoria Lipnic, assistant secretary of Labor for the Employment Standards Administration, said that the intermittent leave issue is causing "considerable tension between employers and employees," adding that the department is "not making recommendations. We are hoping to inform the discussions" (Abrams, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/26).