Senate, House Introduce Family and Medical Leave Insurance Legislation
December 14, 2013 | Alaska Business Monthly | Link to article
WASHINGTON, D.C.-Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMILY) Act into Congress, legislation to create a paid family and medical leave insurance program for American workers.
The bill's introduction comes 20 years after passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law that guarantees about half of all workers unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child, care for a sick family member, or recover from serious illness for up to 12 weeks. Yet many people cannot afford to take unpaid leave, and those who do often struggle to make ends meet. The FAMILY Act picks up where FMLA left off to better meet the needs of two generations of Americans: working adults and their children.
Few employers offer paid family and medical leave to their employees. Only 12 percent of private sector workers currently have paid family leave, and fewer than 40 percent have access to disability insurance for personal medical leave. For them, taking time off to care for themselves or their families results in lost wages or even lost jobs.
"Lack of paid leave has devastating consequences for families, businesses, and the economy," said Liz Ben-Ishai, policy analyst at CLASP (the Center for Law and Social Policy). "The FAMILY Act will help workers maintain their wages even when they need to take leave; it will help employers avoid the high costs of turnover; and it will boost the economy, with more workers earning income to spend in their communities ."
Some states, including California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, already have laws mandating paid family leave. Nine out of 10 employers report that California's law has had a positive or no effect on business, while 91 percent of low-wage workers who used paid leave say it helped them better care for a new child. California employers who are implementing their state law say they welcome federal legislation like the FAMILY Act.
However, the remaining 47 states offer no such protections, creating a critical need for a federal policy solution. The FAMILY Act would enable workers in all 50 states to take up to 12 paid weeks away from work to recover from serious illness, care for a sick loved one, or bond with a new child. It would be funded by employee and employer contributions of just two cents each for every $10 in wages.
Family and medical leave insurance enjoys strong support among the public and in the business community. Polling data released by Small Business Majority shows that a plurality of small business owners across the country support a family and medical leave insurance program like the one proposed in the FAMILY Act. Business owners point to low costs, increased productivity, and employee loyalty as benefits.
Vincent Siciliano, President and CEO of New Resource Bank, which is implementing California's state law, explained, "We know paid family and medical leave is good for business. It's time to share these benefits nationwide."
With more families experiencing economic insecurity than ever before, the FAMILY Act could not come at a more important time for businesses and families. CLASP joins a growing list of 427 organizations from all 50 states in strongly endorsing the legislation. CLASP will work with Gillibrand, DeLauro, and others members of Congress to support the bill's advance in the House and Senate.
Ben-Ishai added, "This program will make a huge difference in people's lives. Workers will finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing that caring for themselves or their family won't cost them their jobs."