The FAMILY Act, Explained

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.

Call Your Members of Congress!

Tell your Members of Congress: Co-sponsor and move the FAMILY Act! With Democrats back in control of the House, we have a real opportunity to make sure this is a top priority for their consideration. House passage will make an important statement that paid family and medical leave is a core value that progressives will continue to prioritize.

Call Now!

What the FAMILY Act Would Do

The FAMILY Act would create a national paid family and medical leave insurance fund that nearly every working person would be able to access. It would:

  • Provide workers 12 weeks of partially paid time off. Workers could take time off for the birth or adoption of a child; 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. Workers would receive up to 66 percent of their monthly wages (up to a capped amount of $4,000 per month) to ensure that low- and middle-wage workers have a higher share of their wages replaced.

  • Apply to virtually all working people across the United States, regardless of their job or where they live. Younger, part-time, lower-wage, contingent, and self-employed workers would all be eligible for benefits.

  • Be funded responsibly and sustainably, without harming other critical government programs. Employers and employees would make small payroll contributions of two-tenths of 1 percent each (two cents per $10 in wages), or less than $2.00 per week for a typical worker. The payroll deductions would go into a dedicated fund administered by a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave that would then disburse the benefits when workers need them. With a dedicated funding stream, Congress won’t be able to pit funding for paid leave against other critical programs. Furthermore, the social insurance model allows small businesses that can’t provide paid leave on their own to have access to the same benefits as big businesses, and compete for the same talent.

What You Can Do

With Democrats back in control of the House, we have a real opportunity to make sure this is a top priority . House passage will make an important statement that paid family and medical leave is a core value that progressives will continue to prioritize. Paid leave is a policy that people across the country regardless of political views support.

The good news? The FAMILY Act already has widespread support with Democrats in Congress. But not every Democrat is a cosponsor. (Here's a list of all the cosponsors.)

But we can’t just check the box with cosponsorship—we want the bill to actually move. Check to see if your MoC is on the Ways & Means Committee (check the membership of that committee here). If so, ask them to push for quick and thorough committee consideration of the FAMILY Act.  

Sample Call Scripts

Hello, I’m a constituent calling from [CITY]. I’m asking [MoC] to cosponsor the FAMILY Act.

The FAMILY Act would create an affordable, inclusive, comprehensive national paid family and medical leave program. It would help meet the needs of new parents and people with serious personal or family health issues. It is important that a paid leave plan be equal for people of any gender and cover all these reasons, and no less.

The FAMILY Act is modeled after paid leave programs that are already working well in California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. Evidence shows that paid leave works – it’s not only good for workers and their families; it’s good for businesses’ bottom lines. All working people need access to paid family and medical leave, no matter where they live or work or the kind of job they have.

For Democratic House Members

Will [MoC] co-sponsor the FAMILY Act?

For Democrats on the Ways & Means Committee (list of members here)

Will [MoC] push for a hearing on the FAMILY Act this spring?

For Republican House Members

Paid family and medical leave isn’t a partisan issue for voters and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue in Congress either. Everyone needs time to care—whether for a new baby, a seriously ill family member, or their own serious health issue. The FAMILY Act is the only bill in Congress that provides comprehensive paid family and medical leave; will [MoC] co-sponsor the FAMILY Act?