Women’s Leader Urges Congress to Recognize Unprecedented Support and Demand for Paid Leave, Prioritize the FAMILY Act

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

“U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D – Conn.) today took an important and welcome step to support America’s working families by reintroducing the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. The bill would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, bringing the country’s workplace policies in line with the needs of the workforce and the rest of the world. This is an exciting move that adds to the momentum for paid family and medical leave we are seeing this year.

No legislation would do more to make this a family friendly nation than the FAMILY Act. It is simply unacceptable that millions of Americans work hard every day, yet are one birth, accident or illness away from financial devastation because our public policies fail to provide paid leave. Just 13 percent of U.S. workers have paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have paid medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. Of the 185 countries studied by the International Labour Organization, the United States is one of just two that do not guarantee paid maternity leave.

The FAMILY Act would help remedy this intolerable and punishing reality by creating a new, self-sustaining fund to ensure workers can earn a portion of their wages for up to 12 weeks (or 60 workdays) of family or medical leave. The leave could be used to address their own serious health issue, including pregnancy and childbirth; to deal with the serious health issue of a parent, spouse, domestic partner or child; to care for a newborn or newly adopted child; and/or for specific military-related purposes. The program is modeled on successful family leave programs in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

A growing body of evidence shows that paid leave is good for workers, families, businesses and our economy. That is why it is no surprise that the FAMILY Act has the support of business owners and the public. According to a 2014 election poll commissioned by the National Partnership and the Rockefeller Family Fund, 81 percent of voters – including 96 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 73 percent of Republicans – say it is important for lawmakers to consider new laws that help keep working families economically secure such as a family and medical leave insurance system.

The National Partnership commends Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLauro for their tremendous leadership in reintroducing and championing the FAMILY Act, as well as all of the senators and representatives who have already signed on in support of it. It is time to end the days when people in this country lose a paycheck or a job because they have a baby, get seriously ill or have a loved one who needs care. It is time for lawmakers to pass this bill.”

The National Partnership wrote and led the effort to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which is the only federal law designed to help people manage job and family. The organization is now convening the coalition pushing for the FAMILY Act.

For more information on the FAMILY Act and to find out more about the extensive body of research on the benefits of paid leave, visit NationalPartnership.org/theFAMILYAct and FAMILYActNow.org.

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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