This resource was prepared in partnership with our friends at the National Partnership for Women & Families.
In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) granted many working people across the United States access to job-protected, but unpaid, time off from work to address serious health and caregiving needs for themselves and their families. But 26 years later, time off from work is out of reach for the 62 percent of working people who are ineligible for leave under the FMLA, or who can’t afford to take unpaid leave.
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, would help close this gap by creating an affordable, comprehensive national paid family and medical leave insurance program. In this resource, we’ll explain:
Why paid family and medical leave is important,
What the FAMILY Act would do, and
How you can pressure your MoC to support the FAMILY Act.
Paid Leave Means Time to Care
Nearly every working person will need time off from work to care for themselves or their family members at some point in their lives. The FMLA allows time off from work to care for a new child, either through birth or adoption; to care for an ill, injured, or disabled child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner; to care for one’s own serious medical issues; or for certain military caregiving and leave purposes.
However, approximately 40 percent of the workforce is ineligible for time off under the FMLA due to requirements around employer size and hours worked, and an additional 22 percent of the workforce is eligible for unpaid time off, but can’t afford to take it. Only 17 percent of the workforce has access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent has personal medical leave. Without paid leave, millions of people are forced to choose between caring for themselves and their family and their paycheck.
The lack of paid family and medical leave leads to dire consequences for families:
Nearly one quarter of moms go back to work within two weeks of giving birth, which is not nearly enough time to physically recover and bond with a newborn.
Three out of four men in professional jobs return to work in one week or less after having a child, and nearly 60 percent of low-income fathers took no paid leave at all.
Those who have to take time off from work to care for family members also lose out—older workers who leave the workforce to care for an aging parent lose more than $300,000 in income and retirement savings.
States have been leading the way on solving our nation’s paid leave crisis – California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York have all implemented paid family and medical leave insurance programs, and Washington, D.C., Washington state, and Massachusetts have passed programs that will be implemented over the next two years. But access to paid leave shouldn’t depend on where you live or who your boss is—it’s time for Congress to act.