Benefits & Compensation News

FMLA expansion bill hits Congress: Will more workers qualify?

Military leave under the FMLA was just expanded on March 8. But a new bill has been introduced in the House that would expand it again – by making it available to a larger portion of the workforce.

Currently under the FMLA, in order to be eligible for job-protected medical leave, employees must work for an employer with at least 50 employees and have put in at least 1,250 hours of work in a 12-month period.

But under the new Military Family Leave Act of 2013, those requirements would be lifted if an employee requested leave in connection with a family member’s military deployment.

The new bill would allow employees — regardless of the size of their employer and how many hours they’ve worked — to take up to two weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period if two conditions were met:

  • If a family member is notified of an impending call or order to active duty in support of a “contingency operation,” or
  • If a member of their family is deployed in connection with a “contingency operation.”

A “contingency operation” is defined by the federal government as: a military operation that is designated by the Secretary of Defense as an operation in which members of the Armed Forces are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing force.

The bill was introduced in a House committee by Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA), and it has 25 co-sponsors.

According to a press release on Cartwright’s website, the intent of the bill is to “ensure that the needs of all military families are met, regardless of their employment situation.”

Cartwright also added, “This legislation closes gaps in current law to provide family support to all service members called to active duty.”

The bill comes on the heels of a recent March expansion of military caregiver leave and qualifying exigency leave under the FMLA.

Chances of passage

You’re probably all too familiar what the impact of the Military Family Leave Act of 2013 would be if it were to be enacted: Employers would need to come up with new FMLA posters, policies and training for managers and supervisors.

But what are the odds it’ll actually make it out of Congress? Not good if you believe GovTrack.us, which gives the bill just a 7% chance of making it out of a House committee (although that’s up from an earlier prediction of 4%) and a 1% chance of being enacted (GovTrack does provide an explanation of how it comes up with those percentages).

Still, the fact that the bill has 25 co-sponsors does show it has a decent amount of support. So stay tuned.

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