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:
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.
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.