Unpaid leave is a hardship many cannot afford

Although the Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year, there are several people who do not meet the strict eligibility standards. In order to be eligible for FMLA leave in Wisconsin, an employee must work for a covered employer for a total of twelve months, although not necessarily consecutively, and for at least 1,250 hours within the previous 12 months. Also, the employee must work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles of his or her worksite. FMLA does not necessarily apply to everyone and those who are protected are often faced with the prospect of using unpaid leave for the duration of the time away from the job.

One woman recently spent 12 weeks of maternity leave with her newborn after taking advantage of a program that allows employees to take family leave and benefit from payroll contributions. The state-administered benefit program is one that many companies and agencies have begun to adopt. Congress recently introduced a bill that will create a similar benefit on a national level for employees who do not necessarily qualify for FMLA.

Given the limited options that many mothers-to-be have, the rate of return to the labor force after giving birth is at an all-time low. The Social Security Administration independent trust fund that Congress seeks to pass would pay employee leave benefits as well as the administrative costs for all employers. All workers would be eligible for 12 weeks of family leave that would include partial pay. Overall, the program is expected to provide much-needed benefits while bringing the U.S. back on top as a global leader of women in the workforce.

Although many are hopeful of the progression and advancements within the family leave conversation, the gaps and pitfalls of the current system still remain in existence. Unpaid leave is a hardship that many cannot afford to take, but it is still a reality until further notice. In the meantime, individuals in Wisconsin who are facing barriers or opposition in the workforce with regard to taking family leave can take action and seek help.

Source: thegazette.com, Moms in “survival mode” as U.S. trails world on paid leave, No author, Jan. 20, 2014


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