Effects of Paid Family Leave on Employers & Employees

Instructor: Anne Marie Hayes

Anne Marie is a former attorney and long time college instructor.

This lesson will explore the Parent and Family Leave program and its effect on businesses and employees. You will gain an understanding of this historic law which, in part, allows individual workers to take time off and retain the right to return to work for the care of various family members.

So, what is PFL?

People define family differently. For some, it is those they were raised in a home with. For others, it means a spouse and perhaps children. Others picture loving grandparents or perhaps a domestic partner as their primary family. Regardless of the picture, what tends to be consistent is that people want to be able to care for their family members in a time of need. In 2002, the government honored this request with the Paid Family Leave program (PFL). In sum, the PFL requires employers to grant paid leave for a worker who desires to take time off to provide care, in various formats, to a qualified family member.

A qualified family member is defined as an employee's seriously ill child, parent, spouse, or registered domestic partner. Also included is a newly born birth child or a child who comes to the home via adoption or foster care placement. In later years, the act was expanded to also include the relationships of parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, and sibling.

Let's take a look at why PFL came about and what it means from a practical standpoint for both employers and employees. Some people believe that it hinders employers. Others may argue that it does not provide enough support to employees. In the end, what it attempts to do is consider the needs of both, in a fair way, supported by our legal system.

Family First

Happy workers are better workers. This is something almost everyone is in agreement with. Bonuses, extra vacation days, work picnics and even comfortable work chairs are all vastly different things but all are intended to keep workers happy. Add to this the additional assumption that when people are feeling supported in their home lives, they are more productive at work. After all, Employee Assistance Programs often offer free credit counseling, personal and family therapy, and other services to workers. Why? Well, if their employees are more content outside of work, then the employers find that they are better workers when they are in the workplace.

So, it is from the standpoint of promoting family and keeping workers happy that the importance of family leave as a right came to be. Therefore, in 2002, the Senate passed the PFL bill. This had radical effects on both employers and employees.

The Employer

PFL for the employers means that they must accommodate their employees who would like to have time off to care for qualifying family members. While having time off from work to provide care can lead employees to be more content, less stressed, and therefore better workers, in the long run, it also leads to the employer being without that worker during the leave. This is a stressor for many companies. Other workers must be trained and made available to take on the responsibilities of the person who is on leave. If that is not possible, which can be the case as those workers already have their own responsibilities, then additional staff needs to be hired. Adding hours for a current part-timer could be an option or hiring a temporary worker could be a solution. Some offices opt to bring back a recently retired worker for a temporary stint.

Most offices, however, simply make due with current staff during the leave for the PFL related employee. While this is the simplest solution in terms of paperwork and recruitment, it is important for employers to be sure that current employees who must take on additional tasks during their coworker's absence do not feel too overwhelmed. The company should not cut corners and, thereby, negatively impact the business during a worker's leave. It is also crucial that neither the company nor its employees retaliate in any way against a worker who requests or takes PFL. PFL is a right!

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