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New Law Makes It Easier For Parents To Care For Their Children

A tweak to Georgia's employment laws has made it easier for parents to stay home when their children are sick.

Specifically, the Family Care Act (FCA)--which passed into law in May, and went into effect in July--requires that employers let their employees use up to five days of paid sick leave to care for immediate family members. Legislators and activists alike believe the FCA carries benefits that will extend to the state's entire economy.

A bill with bipartisan support (finally)

Though some lawmakers consider the measure to be a "massive government overreach," the bill drew bipartisan support and is widely regarded as 'feel-good legislation' that enables parents to better care for their families.

Nevertheless, many agree that the law is fairly lightweight. The state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses has called the bill "pretty innocuous," noting that most employers who provide sick leave already let workers use that time to care for family members. State Representative Jason Shaw concurred. The bill "don't do a whole lot," he said.

The nuts and bolts

So what does the bill do? It doesn't compel employers to offer sick time. But it does compel those that do to let their employees use that time to care for immediate family members (defined as a child or grandchild, parent or grandparent, or spouse). This applies to employers with more than 25 employees, as well as government agencies.

The changes may not seem significant-but, for many, they are. According to the Georgia Job/Family Collaborative, as recently as a few years ago, more than 800,000 workers in the state didn't have access to such 'family care days.' Moreover, advocates see the FCA as an important first step toward more impactful legislation.

Going forward

How the FCA will interact with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has yet to be determined-though it's important to note that Georgia workers are still covered by the FMLA.

In the meantime, the bill appears to be a boon for parents and other family caretakers throughout the state, who now have legal recourse to take time off work to care for their kin.

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