At some point, nearly everyone will need to take time away from work to deal with a serious personal or family illness, or to care for a new child.
But only 17 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided short-term disability insurance.
Our nation’s public policies are failing to meet the needs of workers and their families. Unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides important job protections, but it is available to fewer than 60 percent of workers — and many can’t afford to take it.
Laws providing paid family and medical leave allow workers to continue to earn a portion of their pay while they take time away from work to:
- Address a serious health condition (including pregnancy);
- Care for a family member with a serious health condition;
- Address family circumstances arising from a military service member’s deployment; or
- Care for a newborn, newly-adopted child or newly-placed foster child.
These laws allow workers to meet their health and family needs without jeopardizing their economic security. Paid leave programs in a handful of states — that address a workers' own illness and the needs of family caregivers — provide models for the changes we need. In California, for example, a 2011 report revealed that six years after the introduction of a statewide paid family leave program, both workers and businesses report positive effects. The success of California’s paid family leave program has proven many common objections to such programs unfounded and demonstrates the beneficial impact paid leave policies can have on working families.
We’re working with lawmakers and advocates across the country to support a range of innovative proposals to make paid family and medical leave available to all working families.