For the past 20 years, the Family Medical Leave Act has been the foundation for the expansion of “family friendly” policies that workplaces gradually have adopted since 1993. These policies are designed to address the stressful demands of juggling responsibilities at work and at home, especially when a new baby arrives or a medical crisis occurs.
Such policies that enable a work-life balance include flextime, on-site daycare, eldercare, telecommuting, and statutory leave, along with many others. These phrases have become part of our workplace vocabulary, especially for younger workers determined to have a full life and who resist making compromises that will shortchange their families. If America is to take full advantage of younger workers’ energy and ideas today and tomorrow, we must continue to expand these policies.
FMLA has its limits. The benefits of FMLA do not apply to part-time workers or employers with fewer than 50 employees. FMLA’s definition of family excludes those who need time to care for a same-sex partner or a sibling. And FMLA doesn’t cover routine illness like the cold or flu, leaving working moms and dads choosing between jeopardizing their job or caring for their child.
As a National Initiative committed to advancing women’s economic and social equality, Vision 2020 urges all employers to expand their family-friendly policies. Regulatory change need not occur only at the federal level. States and municipalities across the country also have enacted policies that have enhanced benefits.
Now is the time for us to recognize “family-friendly policies” are a blanket that can protect all Americans.