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DOL Reports Many Employers Provide More Generous Leave Benefits Than Required by FMLA

By Francis P. Alvarez
  • July 1, 2001

In its recent report "Balancing the Needs of Families and Employers: Family and Medical Leave Surveys," the U.S. Department of Labor reports that 21.4% of surveyed employers offer more than 12 weeks of leave per year. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, covered employers are obligated to offer eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave in any twelve-month period. The DOL also reports 28.1% of employers provide leave to employees who have worked less than 12 months and 26.8% of employers cover employees who have worked less than the 1,250 hours in the preceding year required by the FMLA. Excerpts from the survey appear below.

Frequency of and Reasons for Taking Leave

Approximately 16.5% of all employees surveyed in 2000 took leave for a family or medical reason, similar to the 16% in 1995 surveys. Leave-taking increased significantly between 1995 and 2000 for some demographic groups: older employees (defined by the DOL as being ages 50 to 64); married employees; employees with children; and employees with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000. And, employees taking leave in 2000 were less likely to take leave for their own health than were employees in 1995, and more likely to take leave for other reasons such as maternity-disability, care for a newborn or newly placed foster or adoptive child, or care for a spouse or parent.

Increased Use Of FMLA Leave

Although overall leave-taking did not increase from 1995 to 2000, the report found that FMLA use increased. The employee surveys show an increase of employees taking leave under the FMLA (1.2% in 1995 and 1.9% in 2000). The survey results from employers also found higher rates of FMLA usage in 2000, but reported higher percentages compared to the employee surveys (3.6% in 1995 and 6.5% in 2000).

Positive Experiences With Family And Medical Leave

More than 70% of all leave-takers reported that FMLA leave had positive effects on their ability to care for family members and it had positive effects on their own or their family members' emotional well-being. The most frequently cited concern of leave-takers was financial, with over half worried about not having enough money to pay their bills. Overall, about two-thirds of leave-takers surveyed reported that they received at least some pay during their leave, about the same share as in 1995.

Covered Employers vs. Non-Covered Employers

Not surprisingly, establishments covered by the FMLA were found to be much more likely to offer leave benefits (83%) than non-covered establishments (33%). The gap between covered and non-covered establishments has narrowed since 1995, as non-covered establishments are significantly more likely to offer FMLA-type benefits in 2000 than they were five years earlier. A sizable minority of both covered and non-covered establishments offer leave beyond that guaranteed by the FMLA, and more than half of all establishments offer leave for school-related functions or routine medical appointments, with non-covered establishments being more likely than covered establishments to offer such benefits.

Covering for Absent Employees

In both 1995 and 2000, the most commonly reported method of covering work when an employee takes leave was to assign the work temporarily to other employees. This method was cited by 97.1% of establishments in 1995 and 98.3% of establishments in 2000.

©2001 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm that built its reputation on providing workplace law representation to management. Founded in 1958, the firm has grown to more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries including government relations, healthcare and sports law. More information about Jackson Lewis can be found at www.jacksonlewis.com.

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