‘Now Is the Time for Paid Family and Medical Leave for All,’ Women’s Leader Says

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families

“The 27th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act comes at a time of unprecedented momentum and attention for the issue of paid family and medical leave. In the past year alone, Connecticut and Oregon became the eighth and ninth states to enact paid leave, passing two of the country’s most progressive policies; Congress agreed to provide paid parental leave to federal government employees; and legislatures and Governors in red and blue states alike — Tennessee, New Mexico and Idaho — recently implemented or expanded paid leave for state employees. It is clear that now is the time for paid family and medical leave for all.

But we must be thoughtful about how we craft a policy and any national policy must be designed to ensure that people of color, people who are paid lower wages, and contract or “gig economy” workers are able to access this critical protection. This means supporting a policy that provides wage replacement high enough so everyone can afford to take time off; an inclusive definition of family to reflect diverse care needs; job protection; and strong protections against retaliation for taking or requesting leave.

That is why we are calling on Congress to update the FMLA in ways that will advance the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act and incorporate state innovations and best practices. We will continue to reject proposals that present false choices between critical benefits like Social Security or the child tax credit and paid leave, as well as policies that limit paid leave to new parents. We have an opportunity with paid leave to advance racial justice and gender equality — but policy details matter.”

About the National Partnership

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

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