The Family and Medical Leave Act is the first and only federal law that addresses the balance between jobs and family that workers in Wisconsin and across the U.S. must maintain. The 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the act has been used more than 200 million times since being passed. Reasons for taking leave vary, including recovering from a serious illness, caring for a loved one who is ill or receiving maternity or paternity leave.
Last week we discussed the 20th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and discussed some of the shortfalls of the law. One issue with the FMLA is that in some workplaces, it is only acceptable for women to take job-protected leaves for the birth of a child and not for men to do so. The law makes no such distinction, however many employers here in Wisconsin may be intimidating new fathers and discouraging them from taking advantage of their federal family leave rights.
Expecting fathers here in Wisconsin may want to think about moving abroad. This week, Finland enacted a new law that allows new fathers to take 54 days of paid leave following the birth of a child. Of course, Finland is not the only place to find mandatory paid paternity leave; there are countries all over the world where this is the norm. For example, in Sweden fathers receive 480 days of paid paternity leave. Of course, that is nowhere near the case here in the U.S. where many argue that our family leave laws are actually biased against fathers.