FMLA Turns 20: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This morning, when I appeared on the CoHealth Checkup Radio Show to discuss “Resolving Work vs. Life Conflict,” hosts Fran Melmed and Carol Harnett asked me what I thought about the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) turing 20 years old.

My response covered the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good of FMLA

Yes, since FMLA was implemented, workers have used it 100 million times to care for loved ones and themselves without fear of losing their job. And the dire predictions that businesses would collapse under its weight did not materialize. This should be celebrated.

The Bad of FMLA

Unfortunately, many Americans are not able to take advantage of the time off and protections offered under FMLA. Because it is unpaid leave, it can be too costly.  And, businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt, which means that tens of millions are ineligible.

The Ugly

While there is nothing “ugly” about FMLA itself, the caregiving demands we are going to face over the coming decades will be daunting for many, especially responsibilities related to eldercare. Yesterday, I appeared on Huffington Post Live to discuss the looming “The Eldercare Cliff,” and it was clear from the experts interviewed that things are bad now, but they are going to get much worse. The unpaid, limited support under FMLA will be inadequate for many, many families.

Where do we need to go?

Cheer the success of FMLA over the last two decades, but view it as a start, not an end. Use the Act’s success as a springboard to the next step which is paid leave that covers more workers. We desperately need it now, and will need it even more in the not too distant future.

What do you think?

For more, I invite you to: