“Twenty years ago today, for the first time in our nation’s history, tens of millions of people gained the right to take job-protected leave to address inevitable health and caregiving needs. The implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) marked the beginning of a new norm in this country, and the culture of our nation and its workplaces have been forever improved as a result.
Since this day in 1993, the FMLA has been used more than 100 million times by mothers, fathers, spouses, children and people across the country who needed a limited amount of time away from their jobs to recover from serious illnesses, to care for new babies and for loved ones facing serious illness. An entire generation considers the 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave provided by the FMLA a fundamental right – a testament to its tremendous success.
As the organization that drafted and led the fight for the FMLA, we are proud of the many ways it has helped families and our nation. Today, to mark the 20th anniversary of the law taking effect, and to continue raising awareness of the protections it provides, the National Partnership is releasing the sixth edition of our FMLA guide. It is designed to help people navigate the law and understand the adjustments made to it in recent years.
The FMLA laid the foundation for a family friendly America, but it is past time for Congress and the president to build upon it. The FMLA was meant to be just a first step – not the last. Forty percent of the workforce is not covered by its protections and millions who are can’t afford to take the unpaid leave it provides.
The good news is that some states have expanded the FMLA, and California, New Jersey and recently Rhode Island have gone further by establishing paid leave insurance programs. These efforts must and will continue. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee recently passed a bill that provides funding to help more states develop paid leave programs. Members of the full Senate, and then the House, should approve the proposal, paving the way for badly needed innovation.
But national efforts to address our nation’s outdated and out-of-sync workplace policies are what the country needs most. Congress must prioritize measures to expand the FMLA to cover more people who need leave for more reasons. And it must focus on taking the next step: a national paid leave insurance program. Two decades ago, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle came together to pass the FMLA. We are asking lawmakers to do so again, to put families first and to make the economic stability of workers, their families and our nation a priority.”
The National Partnership’s 2013 Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is available online at: www.NationalPartnership.org/FMLAGuide.