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Employee access to family leave is low, bill aims to increase it

| Mar 16, 2020 | Employment Law |

When a family member falls seriously ill, their closest loved ones often take on the role of caregiver to help them through this trying time and ensure they get the care they need. Becoming a caregiver is often a full-time job, which can make balancing work and care incredibly challenging for employees.

Thankfully, federal law helps to ensure that covered employees can take family leave to care for their loved ones, but access to this leave might be lower than many employees believe.

Access to paid, unpaid leave has been low in past years

According to a 2019 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  1. Only 17% of all civilian workers obtained access to paid family leave; and
  2. 89% of civilian workers could take unpaid family leave.

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) permits many employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, while also providing them with job protection and benefits. This allows employees to care for an ill family member, as well as take parental leave to care for a new baby or adopted child.

Access to this leave can be critical for employees when their family faces health challenges, but this report indicates that some employees might not have access to leave. On top of that, taking a long unpaid leave can place employees under significant financial pressure.

New bill striving for paid family leave in Ohio

Many employees might have the ability to take family leave under federal law, but now Ohio lawmakers are debating a state-run family leave program. House Bill 91 would create the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, which would provide paid leave benefits to full and part-time workers.

The bill proposes that employers deduct premiums from the employee’s wages into a fund that would provide them with pay for 12 weeks of family leave. So far, only eight other states have a program like this.

House Bill 91 still has a long way to go before becoming a law. However, it is a good sign for the future that lawmakers are taking this need to support employees seriously.