Promoting policy solutions that improve job quality is an essential part of CLASP's agenda to reduce poverty, support families, reward effort and expand opportunity. CLASP's advocacy on work/life and job quality concentrates on paid leave, predictable and responsive schedules, and advancement opportunities.

Job Scheduling and Responsive Workplaces

CLASP promotes responsive workplaces through policies and practices such as part-time equity, flexible scheduling, advance notification of schedules, guaranteed minimum hours, teleworking options, consistent and predictable hours of work, and more. Read more>>

Sick Days and Family Medical Leave 

CLASP advocates for state and federal policies that prevent workers from being denied time to tend to their own or a family member's health, or care for a new child. These policies include earned sick days, paid family and medical leave insurance, and expansions of the Family Medical Leave Act.
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Business Leadership and Job Quality 

CLASP engages with progressive business associations and directly with business owners to promote the business case for improved job quality policies.  Read more>>

Watch employer interviews about paid leave>>

Aug 5, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

On the Road with FMLA for 22 Years

By Jodie Levin-Epstein 

Twenty two years ago today the rubber hit the road on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). That’s when the new law actually began to reach workers around the country. Since then, working men and women have been able to take unpaid FMLA leave about 200 million times to care for children, elders, and spouses or to address their own serious illness for up to twelve weeks -- without fear of losing their jobs. 

The birth of the law itself, however, was not easy. A large part of the challenge was push back from employer associations that worried about a new labor standard. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Businesses took the lead in bludgeoning the legislation when it was first introduced some 30 years ago; a leader of the latter cried wolf and claimed that the unpaid family benefits represented “the greatest threats to small business in America.” The bill got stuck for a full decade until bipartisan Congressional leadership finally delivered it. Nineteen Republicans in the Senate and 40 in the House voted yes, joining scores of Democrats in both chambers. That was in 1993.

The business associations that worried and rallied against unpaid leave before the law passed should take to heart how unthreatening actual implementation of FMLA is to businesses both small and large. Employers typically find that the FMLA is a manageable policy and that it can have positive impacts. Fully 9 of every 10 employers report that complying with the FMLA has had either a positive effect or no noticeable effect on employee absenteeism, turnover, and morale according to a national survey released by the Department of Labor in 2013. A poll of small businesses found that four out of five small entrepreneurs support FMLA, including almost half who strongly favor it.

While the FMLA has already achieved a lot, it needs to be modernized. About 40 percent of the workforce is not covered by the FMLA. That’s because the law includes significant restrictions on which employers and which employees are covered. For example, employers with fewer than 50 workers are not covered. Further, it also limits who in the family an employee can care for under FMLA; notably, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings are among those who are excluded. Some states have taken action to address these FMLA issues. Congress should let bi-partisan history repeat itself and act now to modernize the FMLA.

While a modernized FMLA is necessary, it is not sufficient. FMLA provides unpaid leave, which makes it unaffordable for many. A program that provides paid family and medical leave for all workers will make it more feasible for those who struggle to make ends meet to take the time to care for family. Employer-provided paid coverage is rare: only 13 percent of workers have access to paid family leave and less than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through employer disability programs.

In Congress, the FAMILY Act would establish a social insurance program funded by small contributions from both employers and employees; workers on leave would receive partial pay. Importantly, a poll conducted for Small Business Majority (SBM) found that a plurality (45 percent) of small businesses support this approach. Three states – California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island – have already created their own paid family leave programs. Evidence is building that these programs, like the FMLA, work for employers. For example, a study found that California’s paid leave program gets high marks: 9 out of 10 employers report either positive or no noticeable effects on productivity, profitability, turnover, and employee morale. 

Business associations and individual employers are already speaking out in support of paid family and medical leave. Leaders from American Sustainable Business Council, SBM, Main Street Alliance, and the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce have each offered perspectives in support of the FAMILY Act. Better Workplaces, Better Businesses, a partnership of associations, highlights employers who make the business case for paid leave and are calling on Congress to take action. As Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube (a Google subsidiary), explains:

“When we increased paid maternity leave at Google from 12 to 18 weeks, we discovered it wasn’t just good for mothers, it was good for business, doubling our retention rate amongst mothers. I’ve personally benefitted from Google’s policy, but all working families, regardless of their employer or state of residence, deserve the benefits of paid family leave. That’s why I support the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, a federal bill that would help employees care for their families until they were ready to return to work and help their businesses thrive.”

As the FMLA celebrates 22 years of being on the road, it is time to acknowledge that the existing infrastructure for job-protected, unpaid family and medical leave deserves repair; it is also time to move in a new direction and create a paid family and medical leave program for all workers. If our nation truly cares about families, as our leaders so often say, it’s time to ramp up old and new policies that can drive such words into action.

Paid Sick Days

As part of its work life and job quality work, CLASP advocates for state and federal paid sick days policies that will allow more workers to take time off when they need to tend to their own or a family member's health. READ MORE »
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