Today marks the 21st anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which mandates that certain employees receive job-protected unpaid leave to care for themselves, an immediate family member, a newborn, or a newly adopted child. Some 100 million U.S. workers have enjoyed time off because of the FMLA, and most employers have reported no negative impact on business profitability or productivity because of the law.

However, too many people have been unable to enjoy FMLA’s benefits. Most worksites are not covered by the FMLA. The law applies only to public agencies and private sector employers with 50 or more employees. And many workers are not covered by the law. It only covers employees who have worked for the same employer for at least one year and who worked 1,250 hours the previous year. A 2012 study of the impact of the FMLA found that around 40 percent of the workforce is not eligible for guaranteed unpaid leave. Even if someone is eligible for FMLA leave, it may not be affordable. Nearly 50 percent of workers with an unmet need for leave explain that they cannot afford to take time off.

The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), introduced in December 2013 by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would significantly improve workers’ ability to take leave by allowing works to take paid time off to address a serious illness of their own or to care for a family member, new baby or adopted child. Employees would be able to earn up to 12 weeks of paid family leave each year through the creation of a national insurance fund. Both employers and employees would contribute to the fund, which would be administered through a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration. All workers who are eligible for Social Security disability benefits would be covered by the law.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your representatives no one should have to risk financial insecurity to care for a loved one.

Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 12/12/13; Feminist Majority Blog 12/12/13; US Department of Labor 9/2013

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