Someone just turned 20 today. Guess who???? It's the Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law 20 years ago. This law protects workers who want to take a parent leave after the birth or arrival of a new child, and it protects workers who need to go on medical leave either for themselves or for a family member. Before that, a business could fire or replace you if it wanted to if you went on leave for either of those reasons.
The FMLA only protects full-time employees at companies with over 50 employees. So not everyone benefits from the law. But for those of us who have benefited from the law, it's been a huge relief. I can't imagine how different my life as a mom would be without it.
Fifty million people have taken FMLA leave in the past 20 years.
You can bond with your newborn or newly adopted child. New parents can take 12 weeks of maternity leave and still keep their job. No, it's not necessarily paid. But more and more companies are offering at least partially paid leave. Those 12 weeks I spent bonding with my son were like gold to me.
You can recover from your delivery. Some of us recover faster than others. As far as I was concerned, I needed those 12 weeks to heal and start feeling fully rested and recovered.
You can care for your sick child. We no longer live in a world where we take it for granted that moms are already at home full-time and can care for sick kids. Many families are dual-career, many others are single-parent. We need to take time off to care for our kids when they're sick without worrying about keeping that job. Thirty-one percent of the people who use FMLA use it to care for a family member.
You can get your knees replaced. Well, that's just one example -- my mom was able to get her knees replaced last year and still return to her job after she recovered. She needed both that job and her knees, especially since she's still supporting my youngest sister at home. Fifty-two percent of people who use FMLA do so to recover from an illness or procedure.
I think the FMLA shows what Americans value: Work and family. I think it could go a lot further in valuing families, but it's a good start.
Have you ever made use of FMLA?
Image via emilywjones/Flickr