This content was originally published in April 2010. For the latest FMLA regulation changes, visit our FMLA article archives or try our practical FMLA compliance guide.
As the new decade begins, so do more changes to the FMLA, childcare incentives, and paid leave initiatives in Congress. These changes will impact not only the ways in which employers administer leave programs, but also the ways in which employees will be compensated for family and medical needs.
New FMLA Regs On the Way
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has indicated further changes to the FMLA regulations to take place in 2010. In the DOL’s annual regulatory agenda, issued in December 2009, DOL stated that it would undertake the “review the implementation of the new military family leave amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act that were included in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY [fiscal year] 2008, as well as other provisions of the FMLA regulations that were revised and implemented in January 2009.”
Presumably, any proposed regulations will contain most recent family military leave certification forms, reflecting the new definitions for exigency and servicemember caregiver leave.
DOL’s regulatory agenda (found at www.dol.gov/asp/regs/unifiedagenda/fall_2009_Regulatory_Plan.pdf) “highlights the most noteworthy and significant regulatory projects that will be undertaken by its regulatory agencies.” The changes to FMLA’s regulations were among the many regulatory projects on DOL’s “To Do” list. According to DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, charged with enforcing the FMLA, “this regulatory initiative assists in achieving the Secretary’s goal of workplace flexibility for family and personal caregiving and, particularly through the job protection and the maintenance of health benefits provisions, helps middle-class families remain in the middle class.”
BLR® will be monitoring and reporting on the proposed regulations as they are issued, and will fully report on any final regulations and the impact they will have on employers.
Childcare and Development Block Grants
The White House Task Force on the Middle Class announced childcare grants to states to offer childcare assistance to lower-income working families and support state initiatives to bolster the quality of child care.
The White House proposes adding $1.6 billion in to the preexisting Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG) to allow 235,000 additional children to be served and to work with Congress to improve the quality of care through a reauthorization of CCDBG and a new Early Learning Challenge Fund currently being considered by the Senate.
The White House also proposes increasing the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which offsets a part of the child and dependent care expenses that families incur in order to work. The proposal would significantly increase the credit for families making up to $85,000 per year, and families with incomes up to $115,000 would receive an increase in the credit.
However, the White House proposal would not make the credit refundable, so families with little or no federal tax liability would receive little or no benefit. For example, a single mother with two children earning $30,000 would not be able to take advantage of the proposed improvements; and, in many states, she also would not be eligible for childcare assistance through CCDBG.
For more information on CCDBG, go to: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ccb/ccdf/factsheet.htm.
For more information on the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, go to http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc602.html.
Inventive Paid Leave Initiative
In a twist on the more generalized paid leave proposals considered by Congress in 2009, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) recently introduced emergency legislation that will guarantee paid sick days for those who are infected by the H1N1 virus.
The legislation includes the following provisions:
- Workers will be able to earn up to 7 job-protected paid sick days to use for leave due to their own flu-like symptoms, medical diagnosis, or preventive care; to care for a sick child; or to care for a child whose school or childcare facility has been closed due to the spread of contagious illnesses, including H1N1.
- Discretion on the need for sick leave would be left to the employee, although medical certification could be required through regulation by DOL.
- The bill would sunset after 2 years.
At a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Children and Families in response to the H1N1 pandemic, Dodd stated that “H1N1 flu is a public health emergency—and slowing the spread of the disease must be one of our top priorities. This bill will allow individuals with the H1N1 flu to follow the recommendations of the CDC and stay home instead of coming to work while sick, and will also make it easier for parents to care for children who must stay home due to the flu or school and childcare closings.”
“The emergency legislation allows workers to decide when they are too sick to work—and are healthy enough to return to work. Our legislation will provide real worker protections and also ensures that working parents can take paid sick leave if their child is sick and needs care,” DeLauro stated at the same hearing.
Dodd is the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Children and Families and the lead sponsor of the Healthy Families Act. Dodd joined Senator Edward Kennedy in introducing the Healthy Families Act earlier in 2009, which allows workers to earn up to 7 paid sick days per year guaranteed.
DeLauro is the lead sponsor of the same legislation in the House of Representatives.