Cross-posted from Working Mother.
Earlier this year, we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a law that the National Partnership for Women & Families led the fight to pass. The anniversary was a moment to reflect on the success of the law and the difference it has made for families. But it was also a chance to call attention to the fact that the FMLA remains the only federal law designed to help people manage job and family, and too many cannot afford to take the unpaid leave it provides.
As both breadwinners and caregivers, working mothers bear the brunt of the emotional and financial harm that results when people have to make impossible choices between job and family when they get seriously ill, have a child or a loved one needs care. That is why the National Partnership has been proud to partner with Working Mother in recent years to galvanize support for an overdue update to the FMLA: a national paid leave program. Today, we celebrate a tremendous and exciting step forward in that effort.
Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are introducing the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act). The legislation would create a national paid family and medical leave program that would ensure people can earn some pay when they need time for childbirth or a serious illness, or to care for a new child or ill family member. It would bring our policies in line with the needs of America’s families, and with the rest of the world.
Right now, just 12 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. Only half of first-time mothers take any paid time off (including vacation and sick time) around their child’s birth. And many are surprised to hear that the U.S. is one of just seven countries that do not provide paid maternity leave.
Some of us are lucky: We work for employers—like the Working Mother 100 Best Companies—that understand the benefits of providing paid leave to their employees. But these employers are the exception and not the norm. And that is why the FAMILY Act is critical. It would level the playing field for businesses of all sizes, and ensure that people have the basic support they need to meet personal and family health needs while still being able to buy basic necessities, shop at local businesses and help grow our economy.
The National Partnership is proud to be convening a broad-based and growing coalition of more than 415 organizations, spanning all 50 states, that is calling on Congress to stand up for America’s families by passing the FAMILY Act. (You can show your support here.) Together, with working mothers and families nationwide, we will make progress.
To find out more about the FAMILY Act and to voice your support, visit NationalPartnership.org/FAMILYAct.