Balancing Act: What's the big deal about FMLA?

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The nation recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act. For those of you who aren't familiar with the federal law, you should know that it is a big deal. It's the law that let employees take time off to have a baby or tend to a health issue without the fear of losing a job. It has been critical for working parents to maintain work-life balance.

It hasn't been a perfect law. It only applies to businesses that have more than 50 employees. And, the biggest issue remains that many employees still don't receive paid sick leave, so while they are eligible to take time off for medical concerns and their job is secure, they can't afford it.

Workers rights groups marked the anniversary with calls to expand the law, and for Congress to pass a new one that would provide paid leave.

The National Partnership for Women & Families put out a new Q&A guide to the FMLA in honor of the 20th anniversary. The guide is a great resource for employees, employers and anyone looking to learn more about taking FMLA leave and how to navigate the law.

FMLA offers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, which workers can use to care for a new baby, a sick family member, or to recover from an illness.

Not long ago, I did an interview on FMLA and spoke about the countless mothers I have talked to, particularly during the recession, who wanted to use FMLA for maternity leave. Some low-wage workers living paycheck to paycheck had to go back to work within days because they couldn't afford time off.

A friend of mine just got diagnosed with cancer. FMLA will allow her to undergo chemotherapy treatments and know that her job is there for her when she returns. This is a huge relief to her.

For my friend, and any other employees who have used this law for legitimate reasons, I'm thankful it exists, and you should be, too.

Happy 20th anniversary, FMLA!


Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC;


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