One week before the 25th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the National Partnership for Women & Families today released an analysis that highlights the significant and growing need for a national paid family and medical leave law that covers workers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The release kicks off a series of activities marking next Monday’s anniversary of the FMLA. Working people, businesses, lawmakers, advocates and others will come together on the ground and online to celebrate progress and call for a national paid family and medical leave policy that advances the movement for more equitable and family friendly workplaces by covering all working people for the full range of serious caregiving and medical reasons.
“Twenty-five years after the FMLA was signed into law, it is past time to take the next step by ensuring paid leave for all working people,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, which drafted and led the fight for the FMLA. “The FMLA has transformed our workplaces and culture in tremendously positive ways, but these data show that unpaid leave is inaccessible for too many people. Working people and families from coast to coast are still caught between the demands of their jobs and their families, and as a result, our economy and businesses are not reaching their full potential. Across the country, women and our allies have been coming together over the past year to demand change and challenge barriers to gender equality. Guaranteeing paid family and medical leave that does not leave anyone behind is an essential piece of that fight.”
The analysis features demographic data that shed light on why the nation’s failure to guarantee paid family and medical leave is causing people in each state to experience conflicts between their jobs and their families. For example, women, and especially women of color, are key breadwinners for their families while also continuing to be primary caregivers. People already have significant family and medical care needs that are increasing as the workforce ages. And the consequences for the economic well-being of families and states can be serious when people are not able to hold paying jobs while providing and receiving critical care. Examples of the state data include:
- In 76 percent of Delaware households with children – nearly 150,000 homes – all parents hold jobs;
- In Pennsylvania, 85 percent of Black mothers, 64 percent of Latina mothers and 50 percent of white mothers are key breadwinners for their families;
- In less than 15 years, the share of New Hampshire’s population age 65 and older will grow by nearly 45 percent;
- Four people die every day from drug overdoses in Virginia;
- In Nevada, there is a 15-percentage point gap in labor force participation between men and women; and
- A national paid leave plan would reduce the number of working families in Colorado facing significant economic insecurity when they need to take family and medical leave by 83 percent.*
Nationally, the FMLA guarantees unpaid leave, but about 40 percent of workers are not covered by the law and many who are covered cannot afford to take the unpaid leave it provides. Just 15 percent of workers in the United States have paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have paid medical leave through employer-provided temporary disability insurance. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and, as of Jan. 1, New York, have paid family leave insurance programs in place. Washington state and the District of Columbia have enacted similar measures that have not yet taken effect. Research shows that existing programs are working well and lawmakers in other states continue to use them as models as they consider programs of their own.
“We now have a powerful body of evidence that shows the widespread benefits of paid family and medical leave, the urgent need for it, and the key components of a meaningful policy that would promote gender and economic equality, strengthen businesses and our economy, and promote the culture change we need,” explained Vicki Shabo, vice president for workplace policies and strategies at the National Partnership. “Lawmakers who advance strong paid leave proposals demonstrate that they understand their constituents’ needs and the value we all place on knowing we can care for our loved ones without risking our jobs. Voters’ support for a strong national paid family and medical leave law cuts across parties and ideologies, and large and small companies say they support a national paid leave plan too. It is past time for all federal lawmakers to show the same interest in real policy solutions.”
The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D – Conn.), is the leading paid family and medical leave proposal in Congress. It would create a national insurance program, similar to those in the states. The program the FAMILY Act creates would be funded through small employer and employee contributions of 0.2 percent each (less than $1.50 per week each for a typical worker) and would allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of leave for serious family or medical reasons while receiving a portion of their pay.
The National Partnership’s reports for all 50 states and the District of Columbia are available here. They were released in advance of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the FMLA, which is Feb. 5. To celebrate the day and advance the movement for paid leave, a broad and diverse coalition of organizations is joining with businesses, state and local lawmakers, and working people across the country to call for a national paid family and medical leave law like the FAMILY Act. Supporters will be sending messages to Congress, hosting events, sharing stories with the media and their networks, and using #FMLA25 and #PaidLeaveMeans on social media.
For more information on paid family and medical leave, including details on existing laws, a summary of recent employer policy announcements, a collection of fact sheets and the latest research on the impact of paid leave policies, visit NationalPartnership.org/PaidLeave.
* Figure calculated using new data released by Brandeis University’s diversitydatakids.org.