On FMLA’s 23rd anniversary, poll shows that it’s time for paid leave

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the enactment of the Family Medical and Leave Act, our nation’s unpaid leave law. Much has changed since its creation and today, working Americans need PAID leave in order to balance work and home demands.

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Congress passed the FMLA in 1993. The federal law provides employees who work at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months and who are employed by businesses with 50 or more workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a new child, a sick family member, or to recover from their own serious illness. Workers taking FMLA are also guaranteed job protection so employers cannot fire them during this leave.

While the FMLA provides working families greater protection, many working Americans – and Montanans – do not qualify for the FMLA. And even among those who do qualify, many employees cannot afford to take unpaid time off work.

Debra Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families, which led the fight to enact FMLA in 1993, states that “America’s workplace policies have failed to keep pace with the realities of people’s lives” and that workers need something better.

A new poll from the National Partnership for Women and Families shows support for paid leave across party lines, racial and ethnic groups, and men and women. Results show that:

  • 4 out of 5 likely 2016 voters think it is important for elected officials to update the FMLA in order to guarantee paid family and medical leave.
  • 76 percent of voters would support a national paid family and medical leave insurance program that would offer workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave.
  • Voters are far more likely to feel their elected official understands their family needs if the official supports a paid family and medical leave law.

Currently, only 13 percent of working Americans have access to paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have access to medical leave through their employers’ temporary disability insurance programs.

While the FMLA was a step in the right direction, it is clear that voters want the peace of mind that they can take time off to attend to their own health needs or care for a family member and remain financially secure. Lawmakers who support paid leave legislation will prove to their constituents that they understand today’s families, share their values, and are working to create better opportunities that strengthen families, businesses, and the economy overall.

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