The FMLA at 21: What a Difference a Year Makes!

by | Feb 5, 2014 | Family Medical Leave Act

One year ago today, we recognized the historic 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – a law the National Partnership proudly wrote and championed. We celebrated the FMLA’s tremendous success in allowing workers to take job-protected, unpaid leave more than 100 million times, and we called on lawmakers to prioritize policies that advance family friendly policies in America. Today, on the law’s 21st anniversary, we can point to considerable progress.

Now more than ever, the country is well positioned to build on the success of the FMLA. Nationwide, seven paid sick days laws and three paid family leave programs are in place.* Since this time last year, Colorado and California expanded access to their state FMLA laws; Portland, Ore., New York City, Jersey City, N.J., and the District of Columbia established new paid sick days standards; Rhode Island became the third state with a paid family leave program; and there have been exciting and promising campaigns around similar policies in more than 20 other jurisdictions.

At the federal level, we hailed the introduction of the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act in Congress in December – a bill that would help fulfill the promise of the FMLA by establishing a national paid leave program. Its introduction kicked off an unprecedented effort by a coalition of more than 400 groups. Just last week, President Obama made a historic call for paid sick days and paid leave. And the next day, nearly 16,000 people from across the country joined a telephone town hall to discuss the critical need for these common sense policies. This is an exciting moment for the country.

But there is much more to be done. The results of a new poll commissioned by the National Partnership, American Women and the Rockefeller Family Fund make it even clearer that our nation’s workplace policies are out of sync with real life in this era, and women and families suffer terribly as a result. The full results of the poll, which focused on family economic issues, will be available soon.

Twenty-one years after the FMLA, it is time – past time – for the FAMILY Act and a paid sick days standard like the Healthy Families Act. America’s working families know it, forward-thinking businesses know it, and so do a growing number of lawmakers across the country. Congress should heed the call of the president and the public and advance these critical policies right away.

* Paid sick days laws are in place in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Portland, Ore., New York City, Jersey City and the state of Connecticut. Paid family leave insurance programs exist in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.