Policy Watch: The Family and Medical Leave Act

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Christopher J Ruhm, Jefferson-Pilot Excellence Professor (Creator)
Institution
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: President Clinton's first legislative action upon taking office in February 1993 was to sign the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The act is designed to "support families in their efforts to strike a workable balance between the competing demands of the workplace and the home" (Commission on Family and Medical Leave, 1996, p. xii). Most notably, the FMLA is the first federal law requiring some U.S. employers to offer maternity leave to women with qualifying employment histories. Prior to its enactment, the United States was virtually the only industrialized country that did not guarantee job-protected parental leave (Kamerman, 1991). During the recent presidential campaign, President Clinton proposed expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act by guaranteeing workers' rights to up to 24 hours per year off work to participate in their children's school activities or to accompany relatives to medical appointments or related professional services. Individuals would also have the option to earn flex-time for overtime work of up to 80 hours per year, to be used for any purpose including family leave. These extensions were strongly opposed by Senator Dole, as was the original FMLA by President Bush during his term of office. This article summarizes provisions of the FMLA, considers its possible effects on labor markets and examines resulting changes in the ability of workers to take leave. I conclude that the actual provisions of the act are quite modest and have neither yielded large benefits to workers nor imposed significant costs on employers. One reason for this is that relatively few workers gained significant new rights to time off work as a result of the law. These conclusions should be viewed as tentative given the brief period the FMLA has been in effect and the dearth of previous research on related legislation.

Additional Information

Publication
Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 11, No. 3, Summer 1997, 175-186
Language: English
Date: 1997
Keywords
Family and Medical Leave Act, Provisions, Labor market, Leave taking