Grandma and the Family Medical Leave Act

DaddyThe Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) celebrates its twentieth year in existence this year and was meant to be a first step toward a family-friendly workplace in America.  It has allowed many to bond with a newborn, care for an aging parent, or deal with a health emergency without fear of losing a job, according to Cindy Krischer Goodman, in her article, “Improving Family Leave,” Miami Herald, February 6, 2013, but needs to do more.  She says in twenty years, it has been used 100 million times by all types of workers and about 40% of them were men.

What is the Family Medical Leave Act?  It applies to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius and people who have worked at their current employer for at least one year and 1,250 hours within the past year.  It is not available to caregivers of parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, domestic partners or same sex spouses.  It says we can take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave and jobs are protected during that leave.  It does not guarantee wages while the worker is on leave.

As much as 40% of the workforce is not even eligible for FMLA.

Grandma knows what should have been known.  According to a Department of Labor study, says Cindy Krischer Goodman, 78% of workers who needed FMLA leave did not use it because they could not afford to take unpaid leave.  We Grandmas know that the parents of our grandchildren cannot afford to take unpaid leave.  We Grandmas know that BOTH parents of our grandchildren are more likely than not to be working parents.

Cindy Krischer Goodman says proposed federal legislation would expand eligibility and introduce a paid family leave insurance program funded though a small payroll tax which would provide two thirds of any employee’s wages for up to 12 weeks of leave.  She says new research by the U.S. Department of Labor reveals women who take paid leave after a child’s birth are more likely to be working the following year.

Remember we Boomer Grandparents have strength in numbers.  If you are so inclined, you can email your local congressperson and say, “I support the proposed federal legislation to expand the FMLA. “

In reality, I see several things happening in the meantime.  First, we Boomer Grandmas or our significant others are still working.  As bosses, I see Grandmas offering employees paid leave to take care of sick children or parents in need, FMLA or not.  We Grandmas have the ability in numbers to exercise the empathy we wished we had been given when we were working and raising our children.  We can make our voices heard in our own workplaces.  Strong families make strong loyal workers.  Our loyalty to our staff shows in their loyalty to us.  Families first is what we Grandmas want.

Second, we Grandmas are in positions, if we are still working, to use our vacation or leave time to help out the parents of our grandchildren when they need us.  If we are not working, we can make ourselves available when the parents of our grandchildren need us.  Remember, if you can, never say no!  Asking our help is sometimes difficult for our adult children.  When they ask, we run to help if we can.

Third, I see the rise of multiple generations living together again.  The Miami Herald, January 25, 2013, had an article entitled, “Multigenerational Homes a Lennar Hit, by Martha Brannigan.  She says a rising number of Americans are moving into extended family households.  She quotes a Census Bureau study issued October 2012 that 5.6 % of the 76 million US households lived in multigenerational setting during 2009 through 2011 and this was higher, 10.4% in Miami-Dade County.

According to Martha Brannigan, Lennar Corp., a home-building company, has launched a new concept tailor made for multigenerational family living.  It is called a house within a house, a smaller living unit next to the main house designed to provide independence but also access to the rest of the family household.  Some families are using the suites as a guest suite for visiting grandparents, some for adult children returning home, some for flexibility for a growing family, and some as a rental unit to bring in some extra income, if zoning permits.  Adapting homes for special needs, such as wheelchairs and safety railings, is done at a cost.  Some suites are as small as 489 square feet, but all have a separate entrance, a bedroom, a bathroom, and some sort of kitchen space.  In Florida, Lennar is selling versions of these multigenerational homes that sell in a range from $283, 990 to $677,990.  Lennar has started offering the multigenerational concept in Arizona and Nevada and is moving out to more markets.

We wish our children and grandchildren good health and happiness always.  However, we know the reality is that we need workplaces that understand the need for some paid family leave.  While we Grandmas are the bosses, we can help our employees.  But, otherwise, in the meantime, until the law catches up with reality, we Grandmas, for our own families, personally step in and help with



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