When people think of the Family Medical Leave Act they do not usually think it is unpaid. This came as a surprise to me when I, myself was going to have a baby and was looking for how I would take my maternity leave without losing a large amount of pay that we could not afford to lose. I was forced to take all the paid time off I had accrued and in order to get paid for even a portion of my maternity leave I had to file short term disability. I got paid 40 percent of my wages. Who do you know that can survive on 40 percent of their wages at a very minimal pay of 8.00 an hour? And how much sacrificing is done when this happens? We tried desperately to prepare for our upcoming arrival, but we were both making 8.00 an hour working 40 hours a week, just trying to make ends meet. I did make tips and this is how we made our ends meet. So not only was I only making 40 percent of my hourly wage BUT I wasn’t making the tips, which was the butter to our bread. I had to take a longer maternity leave due to having a c section. My husband was not able to take any time off work. And we still were not making it. We struggled those 8 weeks, we ended up moving out of our very low rent apartment because we just couldn’t pay the rent and buy diapers and formula. How many other families have this problem? If my husband, the sole earner of our family, had to take 12 weeks of unpaid time starting tomorrow our world would be destroyed. We would lose our home and everything we have worked so hard to build over the last 8 years with his employer. His employer does offer short term disability and he is fortunate, that he has been with this employer long enough to get full pay. But not everyone is this fortunate. Last summer he had to take such leave for himself getting hurt. As it was we struggled as he didn’t get any overtime or bonus pay or anything that we sometimes needed when you have two kids home for the summer, to make that extra dollar.
I would guess if you asked any lower to middle class income family if they could afford to take off work, without pay, that you would get an astounding no. Having the option to get paid when things like a sick child or a spouse who gets cancer would change the way people view the benefits of their jobs. The FMLA is great as it is, it allows for employees to take up to 12 weeks of time off to care for these medical things, however it is not paid. I think it is very important to have this offered to employees of these corporations that are required by law to offer FMLA. I also feel it should be expanded to smaller corporation’s as well, as more people are building their own small businesses. Not all employers offer short term disability and if they do it is often not at full pay, this would be a great starting point of allowing people to take the time off work they need without jeopardizing their pay. Some ways this has been done in for example California, is they have set up a insurance like plan