February 5 2008
Carrie L. Lukas
Balancing the demands of work and family life can be a challenge for any worker. Events such as severe illness or the birth of a child can make working outside the home impossible. People overwhelmingly sympathize with those facing these challenging situations and want society to support such individuals during difficult times.
In recent decades, however, the question has turned not to how civil society can support individuals in times of need, but to how the federal government can dictate how employers must accommodate employees facing these situations. Existing laws require that large employers allow qualified employees to take unpaid leave when facing such circumstances. Some policymakers want to expand these regulations so that they apply to smaller employers and to mandate the availability of additional benefits, such as paid leave.
This paper examines the Family and Medical Leave Act, which mandates that businesses provide unpaid leave to their workers, and considers some of the problems associated with its application. It will also consider the potential consequences of expanding these regulations.
This paper highlights how private entities are voluntarily providing leave benefits and considers ways that policymakers can further encourage businesses and individuals to take actions that will make it easier for individuals in need of leave, without costly government mandates.