International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

care for their ill family members. The need to work has often triumphed because of the underlying fear that job loss would occur if the employee sought further time away from work. The result was a conflicted employee whose focus while at work was undermined by concerns for his or her family's health.

Some employers, notably larger corporations and family-owned businesses, have traditionally allowed some employees a limited system of family leave. In many cases this applied only to the salaried management staff and not to hourly or production employees. However, in general the provision of family leave, prior to 1993, was the exception rather than the rule. In roughly half of the states a version of family and medical, parenting, or pregnancy disability laws had been passed as part of an earlier wave of temporary disability legislation ( Kamerman and Kahn 1991).

In February of 1993 President William Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law. Prior to this time only the United States and South Africa, of the industrialized countries, did not have legislatively guaranteed family leave. In 1990 President George Bush had vetoed similar legislation, claiming that this issue was the prerogative of private industry ( Kamerman and Kahn 1991). The law provides eligible employees with up to twelve weeks, per twelve month period, of unpaid leave for childbirth or adoption, to care for a child, parent, or spouse (including common-law partners) with a serious health condition or for a personal illness. The FMLA requires continuation of health care coverage during the leave and reinstatement of the employee into the same or equivalent position upon his or her return to work. Employees cannot lose any employee benefits such as vacation days, pensions, or disability benefits, that were accrued prior to the start of the leave. If an employee decides not to return to work he or she may be liable for repayment of the amount of insurance payments their employer paid for their health care benefits while they were on leave. All public and local education agencies, and all private-sector employers who employ 50 or more employees in 20 or more work weeks in the current or preceding year are subject to the provisions of the FMLA. As of 1993 only 5 percent of the nation's workplaces, encompassing approximately 45 million employees, or 40 percent of the workforce, were covered by the act. The FMLA is enforced by the United States Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division. Employers are required to provide information to their employees regarding the provisions and protections afforded under the FMLA. Employees who feel that their rights under the FMLA may have been violated can file a complaint with the Department of Labor or file a civil lawsuit against their employer ( Sayer 1993).

There are still concerns surrounding the issue of family leave. The majority of U.S. employees are not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act. Some employers may be reluctant to hire employees that they perceive as being more likely to request family leave time. The FMLA does not cover leave for domestic partners, parents-in-law, or relatives who are not immediate family members. It is likely that many of these questions will be resolved piecemeal by the judicial system on a case-bycase basis.

PATRICE ALEXANDER


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Business and Professional Women's Foundation (BPWF), 1993. Work and Family Policies: Options for the 90s and Beyond. Washington, DC: BPWF.

Gilbert, Lucia Albino, and L. Suzanne Dancer, 1992. "Dual- Earner Families in the United States and Adolescent Development." In Suzan Lewis, Dafna N. Izraeli, and Helen Hootsmans, eds., Dual-Earner Families: International Perspectives. London: Sage Publications, pp. 151-171.

Hyde, Shibley, and Marilyn J. Essex, eds., 1991. Parental Leave and Child Care: Setting a Research and Policy Agenda. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Kamerman, Sheila B., and Alfred J. Kahn, eds., 1991. Child Care, Parental Leave, and the Under 3s: Policy Innovation in Europe. Westport, CT: Auburn House.

Kizer, William, 1987. The Healthy Workplace. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Sayer, Liana, 1993. "Family and Medical Leave". National Business Woman, vol. 74, no. 3 (Fall): 21-24.

Sinclair, M. Thea, 1991. "Women, Work, and Skill: Economic Theories and Feminist Perspectives." In Nanneke Redclift, and M. Thea Sinclair, eds., Working Women: International Perspectives on Labour and Gender Ideology. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 1-24.

Solomon, Charlene, 1994. "Work/Family's Failing Grade: Why Today's Initiatives Aren't Enough". Personnel Journal (May): 72-87.

FAMILY POLICY . Any government policy that affects the forms, functions, or well-being of families.

Family policy can be either explicit, as in some European countries that designate a government minister and department responsible for families, or it can be implicit, as it has been in the United States and Great Britain, where the state basically asserts that families are a "private" matter, not to be interfered with. But every policy has implications for the well-being of a nation's families, whether concerned with taxation, birthrates, health, housing, or welfare payments. Obviously, a family policy perspective is implicit in every political decision or legislative program, even though its varied impacts on families may not be specified in advance of implementation.

In countries such as the United States and Great Britain, a tradition of laissez-faire liberalism has kept the state away from explicit family policies, though the rhetoric merely serves to hide an implicit policy that families should be self-sufficient, despite the interdependency of

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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