Buying Votes with Other People’s Money and Time

By August 13, 2007Miscellaneous

Members of Congress hope to win political points by expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act, a route that’s guaranteed to reduce workplace productivity. From the Kansas City Star:

Before leaving for its August recess, the Senate passed a plan that would allow the relatives of injured soldiers to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for them. If approved by the full Congress, it would mark the first expansion of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act since it took effect in August 1993.

And that’s just for starters: Another Senate bill would give up to eight weeks of paid leave to workers needing time off for the birth or adoption of a child. More narrowly crafted bills pending in the House and Senate would allow eight weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers.

And yet another Senate bill would require that employers with 15 or more employees provide workers at least seven paid sick days to address their medical needs or the needs of their families.

Etc. Etc. The Department of Labor recently reviewed the Family and Medical Leave Act and found that in its major applications — leave for a birth, adoption or in the case of serious illness — it seems to be accomplishing its goals. (DOL’s summary here.) But in far too many cases, the law is throwing operations out of whack because of intermittent illness claims associated with supposedly chronic conditions.

The NAM submitted comments last February with this conclusion:

Manufacturers, far more than most other employers, must have the ability to make and rely on schedules, plans and deadlines. Perhaps the most crucial element of all is a predictable workforce. But the plain fact is that the FMLA, as currently interpreted and enforced, has destroyed that predictability. We are certain that there will be comments praising the compassion, lauding the positive impact on families and approving the freedom from work pressures that the FMLA provides. The NAM and its members, who provide and have provided more generous benefits than those mandated by law, do not take issue with any of those beneficent results. However, no system of benefits can survive if its cost outweighs its value. We are approaching that point with the FMLA. NAM members, indeed, all employers, and our nation’s economy cannot blindly continue to support this flawed, misused and too easily abused system.

Expanding the law will only serve to expand its flaws, misuse and abuse. Better Congress fix the existing problems than create new ones by being generous with other peoples’ money.

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