FAMILY Act Proposes National Paid Family and Medical Leave
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMILY) Act. The FAMILY Act would create a federal paid family and medical leave insurance program enabling workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a seriously ill family member, bond with a new child, or address their own serious health issues. It would be entirely funded by small matching contributions—just two-tenths of 1 percent of wages—from both employers and employees. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) strongly urges Congress to pass this legislation, which is especially important to the lives of low-income families.
Although some higher-profile employers have announced paid family and medical leave programs in recent years, the vast majority of both private and public employers do not offer it. Only 14 percent of civilian workers currently have paid family leave, and fewer than 40 percent have access to disability insurance for personal medical leave. For workers without paid leave, taking time off results in lost wages or even lost jobs, which is harmful to any family’s economic security and devastating to those earning low wages.
“Paid family and medical leave is essential to the well-being of families and children,” explained Olivia Golden, executive director of CLASP. “This legislation is important for all workers and particularly game-changing for low-income workers and workers of color, who are disproportionately likely to lack paid leave. Evidence from state programs clearly shows that public policies establishing paid leave programs help to erode racial inequities and lift up working families.”
The FAMILY Act is modeled on successful state paid family leave programs in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. In 2016, both New York state and the District of Columbia enacted laws that will establish paid family leave for workers in those jurisdictions in the coming years.
In California, which implemented a paid family leave (PFL) program in 2004, research shows significant gains for workers of color. Prior to PFL, White mothers were four times more likely to take paid leave than Black mothers; this discrepancy has now all but disappeared. The FAMILY Act would also help more than 40 percent of Latina women who report taking no maternity leave at all, following their last pregnancies. Evidence from California also shows significant increases in fathers taking leave.
After finding paid leave relatively easy to implement, employers in states with PFL laws express high levels of approval for the programs. More than three quarters of employers surveyed in Rhode Island say they either support or feel neutral about the law. In California, nine out of ten employers report either positive or no noticeable effects on productivity, profitability, turnover, and employee morale. And the majority of New Jersey employers say they had no difficulty implementing the program.
Businesses benefit not just when their own employees have access to paid leave, but also from an economy that enables community members to enjoy the economic security that comes with paid leave. With such stability comes greater consumer demand, a boon all businesses. That’s why a growing number of business leaders support the FAMILY Act. Supporters include many smaller employers who are eager to do what’s right but may struggle to afford paid leave. The insurance model proposed under the FAMILY Act would enable these employers to compete with larger businesses for the best employees by offering a highly valued workplace policy, without having to shoulder the entire cost.
The Gillibrand-DeLauro legislation follows a campaign where Presidential and Congressional candidates from both parties expressed interest in paid family and medical leave, though with different visions for how to construct such a policy. The FAMILY Act takes the right approach by covering employees at businesses of all sizes; mothers and fathers; family members caring for loved ones; and workers’ own medical leaves. This inclusive approach, coupled with sound financing through a social insurance system, is what the nation’s workers need to maintain economic stability and care for their families.
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CLASP is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty organization advancing policy solutions that work for low-income people. With nearly 50 years of trusted expertise, a deeply knowledgeable staff, and a commitment to practical yet visionary approaches to opportunity for all, CLASP lifts up the voices of poor and low-income children, families, and individuals, equips advocates with strategies that work, and helps public officials put good ideas into practice. The organization’s solutions directly address the barriers that individuals and families face because of race, ethnicity, and immigration status, in addition to low income. For more information, visit www.clasp.org and follow @CLASP_DC.