National Partnership for Women & Families

As the FMLA Turns 21, Efforts to Build on Its Success are Stronger – and More Important – Than Ever, Says Law’s Champion

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
WASHINGTON, D.C. — February 5, 2014 —

One year ago today, workers, advocates and lawmakers across the country recognized the historic 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by celebrating its tremendous success in allowing workers to take job-protected, unpaid leave more than 100 million times. 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 in the State of the Union. 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. According to a new poll commissioned by the National Partnership, American Women, and the Rockefeller Family Fund, similar percentages of women and men (21 and 17 percent, respectively) report having taken family or medical leave for more than seven days in the last few years, but women were less likely to receive pay. Only 27 percent of women say they were paid their full wage when they took leave, compared to 39 percent of men. And 30 percent of women say they received no pay, compared to just 22 percent of men. (Full results of the poll, which focused on family economic issues, will be forthcoming.)

These new data confirm what people across the country have long known, and what too many members of Congress have yet to address: Our nation’s workplace policies are out of sync with real life in this era, and women and families suffer terribly as a result. 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.”

* 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.

Contact

Sadie Kliner (202) 986-2600 skliner@nationalpartnership.org

The National Partnership for Women & Families drafted and led the fight for the Family and Medical Leave Act. The organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.

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