National Partnership for Women & Families

New Poll: As the Nation’s Unpaid Leave Law Turns 23, Nearly Four in Five Voters Agree It’s Important for Paid Family and Medical Leave to Be Next

Organization Behind the 1993 FMLA Releases New Poll Results, Q&A Guide to the Law
WASHINGTON, D.C. — February 4, 2016 —

To mark tomorrow’s 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the National Partnership for Women & Families today released new national poll results confirming that, by an overwhelming majority and across demographic and party lines, voters want and support a national paid family and medical leave law. The FMLA established an unpaid leave standard for the country in 1993, and the push to establish a national paid leave standard has grown measurably stronger in recent years.

“The FMLA was a historic advance that made this country and its workplaces more family friendly, but this new survey shows that voters see a national paid leave program as a long overdue next step,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, which drafted and led the fight for the FMLA. “America’s workplace policies have failed to keep pace with the realities of people’s lives, and voters are more than ready for that to change. Lawmakers who advance paid leave will demonstrate in powerful ways that they understand their constituents’ needs.”

In conjunction with the new poll, the National Partnership released the eighth edition of its guide to the FMLA, which details the law’s protections. Available in both English and Spanish, the guide is a comprehensive description of a law that has been used more than 200 million times by people who needed leave to address serious personal or family medical conditions, including pregnancy and childbirth. However, about 40 percent of workers are not covered by the FMLA and many who are covered cannot afford to take the unpaid leave the law provides.

The national survey finds that nearly four in five likely 2016 voters (79 percent) say it is important for elected officials to update the law to guarantee access to paid family and medical leave, including 57 percent who say it is “very important.” And 76 percent of voters say they favor a law that would create a national fund that allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, including 61 percent who say they “strongly favor” such a law. Other key findings include:

  • Strong voter support across party lines: Virtually all Democrats (94 percent) say updating the law is important and 92 percent say they favor a new law that would create a national paid family and medical leave fund. Independents agree that updates to the law are important (80 percent) and favor a national fund (75 percent). Sixty-one percent of Republicans say updating the law is important, including 51 percent of Republican men and 73 percent of Republican women; 57 percent of Republicans say they favor a law that would create a national paid family and medical leave fund, including 47 percent of Republican men and 69 percent of Republican women.
  • Strong voter support among women and men: 72 percent of men and 86 percent of women say it is important for elected officials to update the law to guarantee access to paid family and medical leave; 66 percent of men and 85 percent of women say they favor a law that would create a national paid family and medical leave fund.
  • Strong support across racial and ethnic groups: Overwhelming majorities of African American and Latino voters say it is important for elected officials to update the law to provide paid leave (97 percent and 84 percent, respectively); 90 percent and 86 percent, respectively, say they favor a law that would create a national fund. More than seven in 10 white voters (75 percent) say updating the law is important, and 71 percent say they support the creation of a national fund.
  • An elected official’s support for paid leave signals an understanding of voters’ needs, especially among key demographic groups: By more than a seven-to-one ratio, voters say they would be more likely to feel that an elected official understands their own and their families’ needs if that official supports a paid family and medical leave law. Women (60 percent), including women under 50 (63 percent), women with at least a college degree (62 percent), women in the South (70 percent), unmarried women (68 percent), and women with children under 18 (72 percent), as well as African American voters (74 percent), say they feel this is true.

Right now, just 13 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 California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have paid family leave insurance programs in place and all three build on the longstanding temporary disability insurance programs that exist in those states. Research suggests that these programs are working well and that paid leave benefits women and men, children and seniors, businesses and the economy.

The federal 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 three states. The program the FAMILY Act creates would be funded through small employer and employee contributions of 0.2 percent each (about $1.35 per week each for the 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.

“These new poll results make clear that the vast majority of voters think it is past time for Congress to pass a national paid family and medical leave law, and that where candidates stand on the issue of paid leave matters,” Ness continued. “America’s workers and their families are tired of waiting. We are counting on elected officials and all those seeking office to address the country’s paid leave crisis and put a real solution in place that supports every worker and family.”

A memo summarizing the results of the national survey is available here. The topline results can be found at: NationalPartnerhip.org/FMLA23Poll. The survey was designed by Lake Research Partners and administered through ORC International’s CARAVAN omnibus telephone survey. It reached a random sample of 1,004 adults, 808 of whom indicated they are almost certain or probably likely to vote in November 2016; the results reported here are for that sample of likely voters, weighted to reflect the expected 2016 electorate. The survey was conducted from January 28 to January 31, 2016, and included respondents on landlines and mobile phones. The margin of error for the likely voter sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; it is higher among subgroups.

The National Partnership’s updated Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is available in English and Spanish online at: NationalPartnership.org/FMLAGuide and NationalPartnership.org/GuiadelaFMLA.

For more information on paid family and medical leave, including details on existing laws, a summary of recent employer policy announcements, and the latest research on the impact of paid leave policies, visit NationalPartnership.org/PaidLeave.

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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