Obama’s Administration New Family Friendly Workplace Proposals

Recent headlines and the press coverage around the president seem to be dominated by foreign affairs issues.

However, much of the president's focus this year has been about his administration's agenda for the workplace. You may have heard about the proposal to increase the starting wage, but there are several more proposals in the president's workplace agenda. The main focus of the agenda is to put in place more family friendly policies. Although these haven't been in the media spotlight, they can bring significant changes to your business if enacted.

Some might argue that family friendly workplace programs are good for the country and for businesses. Others may believe they will be just mean more costs and burdens for already struggling businesses. In any case, it is important to know what is being proposed and how it might impact your business. Here are some key ones:

Paid Sick Leave

The administration is pushing for all companies to offer paid sick leave. They propose requiring companies to offer up to 7 days of paid sick time to their employees to use for themselves or to take care of a family member. This can be a big expense for companies that do not currently offer sick time or less than 7 days of it.

State Paid FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)

Currently, companies with 50 or more employees are required to offer their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical needs, such as birth of a child. Companies are only required to provide the time off and protect the employee's job. They are not required to pay their employees while they are out on leave. A few states have temporary disability insurance programs to provide employees a portion of their income while out on leave but most don't. The president is pressing for all states to offer temporary disability insurance. He proposes to provide funds to start the program up in the states. However, the model for ongoing funding is through employer and employee contributions. In addition to costs, there are administrative requirements companies will have to comply with.

In case you're interested to know the current states that have temporary disability insurance are: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

Expanding FMLA

The president wants to expand FMLA to cover more workers. Currently companies with less than 50 employees are not required to offer leave. According to the administration, 40% of workers are currently not covered by FMLA. If small companies are required to offer FMLA, it will have a big impact on them. Again, beyond potential costs, there are administrative requirements to deal with.

FMLA to Include Same Sex Marriages

The EEOC announced a proposal to revise the definition of spouse to include same sex marriages. This will expand the FMLA coverage to those in legal same sex marriages. The EEOC is also proposing to change the FMLA marriage requirement from state of residency to state of "celebration". So where the employee lives will not impact if the marriage is considered valid for FMLA purposes. Companies that currently do not allow FMLA for employees in same sex marriages will have to revise their policies to do so, if the proposal is adopted.

Access to Equal Pay

President Obama is strengthening the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission's (EEOC) ability to enforce equal pay laws. These laws are intended to ensure women don't get paid less than men to do the same job. Additionally, he announced the creation of Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force "to ensure that equal pay laws are vigorously enforced throughout the country," according to the administration. No one is sure what that will mean yet. Early indications are that a lot more wage reporting requirements will come in the future.
Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/cwg/work-flex-kit/get-started/factsheet

Next Steps

In addition to what the president's administration proposes, many states are proposing and enacting similar initiatives. Whether on the federal level or state or local level, more family friendly laws are likely to be on the horizon. We recommend that you review your company's current policies to identify where you may have gaps in what is being proposed, so that you can start to anticipate potential costs if new laws are enacted.

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