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Business Planning

Taking a Closer Look at the FMLA

Attracting and retaining top employees is a key issue for many companies in today's competitive marketplace. With cost control a high priority for employers nationwide, businesses can benefit from understanding the various non-compensation-related factors that can help contribute to greater workplace satisfaction.

A major concern for many workers is the struggle to balance family and work responsibilities. In a 1998 survey, the National Partnership of Women and Families found that two-thirds of Americans felt that concern for achieving that balance was increasing. Moreover, the concern was not limited to any one demographic group. It was a concern shared by both men and women alike, and young as well as old. For instance, the survey results said that 69% of workers under age 40 expected to require family leave within the next ten years, while 65% of those under age 60 expected to assume responsibility for elder care at some point.

Workplace Initiatives

One way for companies to attract and retain high quality workers is to broaden their family and medical leave policies. From an employee's perspective, the guarantee of a job at the end of such a leave is an extremely desirable aspect of an overall benefits package. Employers can benefit too, since low employee turnover decreases training costs and results in fewer disruptions to continuity.

Thus, many companies recognize that it makes good business sense to adopt a family-friendly approach. In fact, a 1998 study by the Families and Work Institute found that 84% of employers surveyed believed the benefits of providing family or medical leave outweighed or offset the costs that would be incurred.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, businesses with more than 50 employees are required to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth, adoption, or the serious illness of an employee or immediate family member. However, small businesses--to which the FMLA does not apply--are not required to do so, but may voluntarily choose to enact benevolent leave policies. According to the Families and Work Institute study, businesses with such a forward-thinking approach often provided more generous leaves than the law required, or provided replacement pay for part of a leave.

Coverage Concerns

While many employers may theoretically favor the idea of family and medical leave, it is not surprising that they may be concerned about how to provide adequate work coverage during an extended leave. Assigning the work to other employees or outsourcing certain functions may be practical in some cases, but not in others.

Fortunately, the rise in the number of qualified individuals working for temporary help agencies offers a contemporary solution. While in the past "temps" may have been viewed as less qualified workers, today, it's rapidly becoming clear that more and more individuals are choosing temping as an alternative work style. Also, today's temps are available for all types and levels of positions. Whether a company needs a short-term secretary, graphic designer, engineer, computer programmer, or even a chief financial officer, temporary agencies now exist to fill the bill.

It Makes Good Business Sense

A family-friendly work environment can offer benefits for all parties in a workplace. Employees benefit when their employers recognize and support their need to care for newborns and aging parents, and when they provide job security during medical leaves. Small businesses gain by reducing turnover and retaining skilled employees. Finally, workers who have chosen temping as an alternative work style, benefit from the recognition that they can step in and make valuable short-term contributions.

Copyright © 2003 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.


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