Read the latest from the Support Paid Leave blog – a collection of posts written by coalition partners.
When Rachel and David started their family, each of them had reliable work and made a solid income. Rachel had been a family lawyer at the same firm for seven years, and David was a financial planner with a well-respected consulting agency. But as they prepared to welcome their first baby, they were stressed. While David was likely eligible for benefits through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it only provided unpaid leave. The steep cost of raising children meant foregoing a good portion of their income after their baby was born, and didn’t make financial sense, even for a short time. Rachel was grateful that she was due in mid-December, so she could capitalize on the holidays and use vacation and sick leave to cover the costs of taking time off to be with their baby. Her boss gave her all the paid time off she could afford. Altogether, Rachel cobbled together about 7 weeks of paid leave to recover from what turned out to be a difficult birth and get to know her sweet new baby. David took a week off to be with his baby girl.
As FMLA celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, American workers still don’t have a guarantee of paid family and medical leave. Just like Rachel and David, millions of parents across the country must make the stressful choice between time with their newborn or newly adopted baby and the economic security of a paycheck they can’t do without. The U.S. remains the only industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee that workers can count on a paycheck while taking time off for critical family caregiving needs. The FMLA anniversary is a clear reminder that we have 25 years’ worth of unfinished business to take care of. Nearly 60 percent of the workforce is currently missing out even on FMLA’s benefits because they are not eligible, and millions of workers cannot afford to take the unpaid leave it provides. It’s high time for Congress to pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, creating a sustainable, affordable, inclusive national paid family and medical leave program that provides security for American families.
The years of research on the benefits of paid leave for babies, families, and communities is indisputable. In fact, a baby’s brain produces one million new neural connections every second during the first year of life, acquiring the ability to think, speak, learn, and reason. These early brain connections form the foundation for all learning and relationships that follow. For newborn or newly adopted babies, thrust into a completely unknown environment and able to make sense of it only through caretakers they learn to trust, paid leave means time to be the focus of unhurried attention that helps them build the circuits to navigate a strange, new world.
For parents of new babies, paid leave also means:
· Time to develop caring, consistent relationships that can mitigate the impact of stress and help to develop the foundations of a child’s ability to learn, to form positive relationships later in life, and to exercise self-control.
· Time to become responsive caregivers, establishing a pattern that will influence their child’s long-term cognitive, social, and emotional development.
· Time to identify and intervene in a variety of development difficulties. This is especially critical for caregivers of infants who are born preterm or at low birth weights and those who have illnesses or birth defects. Early detection of potential developmental delays helps effectively address them in the most cost-effective way.
· Time to attend to a child’s early medical needs, reducing infant mortality and the occurrence and length of childhood illnesses, in turn lowering private and public health spending.
· Time for fathers to bond with their babies. Studies show that fathers who take two or more weeks off after the birth of a child are more involved in that child’s direct care nine months after birth than fathers who take no leave. Involved fathers also promote children’s educational attainment and emotional stability.
· Time for mothers to breastfeed, attend well-child visits medical visits, and ensure their children receive all necessary vaccinations. Studies show that paid leave yields higher rates of breastfeeding, which reduces the rates of childhood infections.
Eighty-two percent of 2016 voters — across party lines — say it is important for the President and Congress to consider a paid family and medical leave law. But currently where you live largely determines what guarantees you have, as states and communities lead the way. Five states and the District of Columbia have all passed state paid leave laws, providing a strong body of evidence upon which to build a robust federal policy. Data from states with paid leave show health and economic benefits, as well as strong levels of support from employers.
Twenty-five years is too long to wait to fulfill the promise of the FMLA. It is time for Congress to stand up for hard-working families, businesses, and the economy by supporting the FAMILY Act.
By Vicki Shabo
On International Women’s Day, it is difficult to ignore the fact that the United States is an international outlier when it comes to paid family and medical leave, and practically every stakeholder in the country — working people, children and adults who need care, large and small businesses and many other communities — is paying the price. The absence of a national paid leave policy in the United States is American exceptionalism at some of its worst.
It is true that we have the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was signed into law 25 years ago last month. The FMLA was historic and revolutionary at the time, guaranteeing unpaid, job-protected leave to people who need time away from their jobs to care for a new child or deal with a serious personal or family health issue, and it has since been used more than 200 million times. Still, 62 percent of the workforce does not have access to the law’s protections or cannot afford to take leave without pay. And in two decades, our country has failed to expand the FMLA to cover all workers and to take the next step with paid family and medical leave for all.
But our country’s paid leave story is — at long last — entering an exciting and complex new chapter. National paid family and medical leave is on the country’s policy agenda like never before. Politicians, business leaders, researchers and voters across partisan and ideological lines are seriously contemplating next steps in securing a national paid leave plan. Paid leave is no longer an if question. Even in the past 12 months, while Congress and the Trump administration have undermined so many protections and norms, gutted essential regulations and ripped families apart, a surprising cross section of influencers has been grappling with how and when the country should adopt a paid leave plan. New developments are breaking by the day.
Backed by state paid leave policy wins, a growing body of research on state and private sector policies, business allies, and the voices of the working people with the most at stake, a national coalition of organizations convened by the National Partnership for Women & Families, along with public and private sector allies, has helped seed and advance a long overdue national conversation about the kind of paid leave policy the country needs. More than ever, experts are emphasizing the importance of sound, tested policy principles in securing economic security for all and advancing gender equality. And now, just in time for International Women’s Day, a comprehensive new analysis of more than 5,500 studies of paid leave in the United States and around the world bolsters the point and global effort to press for progress.
Enacting a strong paid family and medical leave plan in the United States would mean busting stereotypes about jobs, family and care that hold women and working people back. It would mean recognizing that our businesses and economy are healthier when people can care and provide for themselves and their families while keeping their jobs. It would mean respecting the diversity of families and care needs. And it would mean protecting the health and economic well-being of working people, families and communities.
Fulfilling that vision, though, requires careful attention to details. It means rejecting proposals that would co-opt scarce resources and derail programs like unemployment insurance or existing Social Security old age and disability funds — proposals that, without new investments and funding, would pit people against one another and burden already strained, aging systems and the under-resourced personnel who operate them. It means jettisoning false, ineffective plans like the two-year employer tax credit in the 2017 tax bill, which will exacerbate the “boss lottery” — in which employers hold sole decision-making power over employees’ access to paid leave — and overwhelmingly benefit only companies that have already determined that paid leave is a wise investment, rather than incentivizing many others to start providing it.
Establishing an effective, meaningful paid leave plan for our country also means rejecting plans that are too limited to work. It means exposing as shams plans that would provide benefits so low that people who need paid leave the most would be paying into a system they couldn’t afford to use — and that would reinforce, rather than help to reduce, gendered caregiving norms. It means dismissing as too short-sighted and limited plans that exclude key reasons people need paid leave — for serious health issues of their own or a loved one. It also means accepting that voters, including lower-wage voters, are comfortable contributing to a shared paid leave fund, as workers already do in some states.
Winning national paid leave also means that we need to build bridges.
- For conservatives, it will mean setting aside ideological beliefs that disfavor regulation; listening to conservative economists who acknowledge that the market has failed most workers when it comes to paid leave; and learning from the growing body of evidence that shows paid leave benefits businesses and the U.S. economy — rather than falling back on the disproven, outdated narrative that posited providing workers with leave would harm businesses and bring down the economy.
- For progressives, it will mean acknowledging conservatives’ preferences for smaller government and efficiency; developing common principles; and working intentionally to build strong alliances among traditional paid leave advocates and businesses of all sizes — just as Washington state lawmakers did last summer when they adopted a paid leave plan with the most generous leave durations and wage replacement rates in the country.
- For politicians across party lines, it will mean putting aside partisanship in favor of an evidence-based, tested, strong paid leave policy model that already unites voters across political parties and speaks to the need people have for a government that is responsive to the realities of their lives. The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (S. 337/H.R. 947) has broad Democratic and independent support in Congress now; voter sentiment and state evidence suggest bipartisanship should be attainable.
- For the private sector, it will mean following the lead of a growing number of companies and business leaders who recognize the value of paid leave for their employees, their employees’ families, their bottom lines and society. And whether they offer paid leave to their employees or not, contributing to a government-administered fund in order to secure paid family leave for the 100 million workers who are currently without it.
Most of all, securing the kind of national paid leave we need will take trust and respect — in people, to use paid leave benefits responsibly, as evidence from state programs and U.S. Department of Labor FMLA survey data show they overwhelmingly do; in government, to create and administer a program that benefits everyone, just as state programs have done; and in our shared values, like personal responsibility, family responsibility and the importance of providing care, which unite people across racial and ethnic backgrounds, those born in the United States and immigrants, Republicans and Democrats, and wealthy people and the rest of us.
It’s past time for real, comprehensive paid leave in the United States. We can win this together, and — when we do — we’ll have made important progress in our global standing when it comes to supporting women and families, and toward the more equitable country women and our allies are demanding for the well-being of all of us and generations to come.
Let’s Press for Progress on Gender Equality Through a Strong U.S. Paid Leave Policy was originally published in Support Paid Leave on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
By: National Partnership
This week, marked the 25th anniversary of Bill Clinton signing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — the nation’s first and only national leave law. The milestone was an opportunity to celebrate how the FMLA has improved our culture and our workplaces. Since 1993, the FMLA has allowed people to take leave more than 200 million times to address serious personal or family care needs without risking their jobs.
The anniversary was also a resounding call to action to win national paid family and medical leave. As this wrap up shows, there is tremendous strength, diversity, passion and clout behind the vibrant movement to win paid family and medical leave for all working people, no matter where they live, their employers or their jobs.
At a time when the nation is having an extraordinary and long overdue moment of reckoning about women, work and family, we sent a clear message — across many geographic locations and platforms — that in order to secure a future in which all working women and people can live and work with dignity and respect, we need a national paid family and medical leave policy. It was a historic and energizing week.
A Remarkable Digital Footprint
On Feb. 5, the FMLA’s anniversary, advocacy organizations in the national paid leave coalition, business leaders, members of Congress, the media and individuals across the country took to social media to share their support for paid leave and what #paidleavemeans to them in honor of #FMLA25.
On Twitter, #FMLA25 trended in the United States for several hours. In total, more than 12,000 accounts tweeted using the hashtag. Several high-profile and influential women, such as Hillary Clinton, Maria Shriver, Melinda Gates, Shonda Rhimes, Sophia Bush and Sheryl Sandberg used their personal digital platforms to call for a national paid leave policy. Dozens of major companies used the hashtag and their digital platforms to express their support for paid leave (see below). And 85 members of Congress used #FMLA25 on Twitter. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s tweet (pictured above) was the second-most re-tweeted post of the day.
Individuals also used digital tools, such as WeTweet.org and advocacy organization platforms, to send thousands of messages to their members of Congress about what paid leave means to them and the importance of a national paid family and medical leave plan. Family Values @ Work hosted a Facebook Live, “State of Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days,” and the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) included paid leave and #FMLA25 in its #FightingForFamilies Week of Action.
Lawmakers Show Up, Take Action and Speak Out
In addition to events happening across the country, the National Partnership for Women & Families hosted a special congressional reception on Capitol Hill on Feb. 5 to bring together federal legislative champions, state and local lawmakers, national paid leave coalition partners, state and local paid leave advocates, and the public to celebrate the FMLA’s success and call for the FAMILY Act.
U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) both released statements on the day of the anniversary, as did the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Joint Economic Committee Democrats and U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats released new fact sheets.
The reception opened with remarks by Rep. Pelosi, and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) spoke about their support for paid leave. National Partnership President Debra L. Ness addressed the room, and Saru Jayaraman, president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) and a TIME’S UP activist, delivered a stirring speech about the importance of worker-friendly policies like paid leave and fair wages. “We need one fair wage … [and] the #FAMILYAct. We need both,” she said.
The FAMILY Act gained six new co-sponsors for the Feb. 5 celebration — Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tina Smith, and Reps. Al Green (D-Texas) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.).
The next day, Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hosted a roundtable discussion on the economic benefits of paid leave, moderated by National Partnership Vice President for Workplace Policies and Strategies Vicki Shabo. On Feb. 7, Sens. Tammy Duckworth, Kirsten Gillibrand and Heidi Heitkamp took to the floor of the Senate to deliver speeches to celebrate the FMLA and call for paid family and medical leave for all.
But not all of the action or attention was in Washington, D.C. Lawmakers spoke out about their support for paid leave in the media, online and in places across the country too. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) penned an emotional op-ed for CNN. State lawmakers in Massachusetts, Montana and Oregon wrote op-eds. Rep. Rosa DeLauro joined advocates and local leaders in Connecticut for a paid leave event. Ohio state Reps. Kristin Boggs and Janine Boyd and Sen. Charleta Tavares introduced state paid family and medical leave legislation. In Virginia, Del. Mark Sickles and Sen. Jennifer McClellan commemorated the anniversary with speeches in the legislature. The Colorado legislature held a hearing on a paid leave proposal. Wisconsin legislators and advocates beat back a proposal to weaken the state’s FMLA law. And as part of SiX’s week of action, lawmakers in Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia spoke out in support of paid leave through events and social media.
Businesses Voice Their Support
A growing number of employers are leading on leave by establishing or expanding their own paid leave policies and endorsing public policies because they understand that paid leave is good for their bottom lines and the economy. So it comes as no surprise that several companies and business leaders — including Adobe, Airbnb, Trish Stroman of Boston Consulting Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, BP America, Cigna, Deloitte, Eileen Fisher, EMD Serono, Geben Communication, the i2 Coalition, L’Oreal, Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, Levi Strauss, MTV, Nestlé, Patagonia, Schneider Electric, Starbucks, UncommonGoods, Whirlpool, Working Mother magazine and XO Group Inc. — also used their digital and social media channels to celebrate the FMLA andlift up their own paid leave policies. Several also publicly expounded on their support specifically for the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY Act) — the leading paid leave proposal in Congress.
Jan Jones of Caesar’s Entertainment, Geben Communication, The Honest Company, Seventh Generation, Union Square Hospitality Group and XO Group Inc. publicly endorsed the FAMILY Act for the first time this week — joining the growing list of businesses that recognize the need for a national paid leave policy.
The Media Take Note
The FMLA anniversary and national push for paid family and medical leave generated significant attention among the press as well. Major outlets such as The Washington Post, CNN, Politico, Forbes, MarketWatch, Salon, Bustle, Romper and Ms. Magazine published stories that included it, as did outlets in nearly all 50 states. Dozens of reporters and media outlets used the anniversary as a hook for talking about leave and sharing related content as well.
Before, during and after the anniversary, several major national, regional and online outlets featured opinion pieces from paid leave leaders, including The Denver Post (MomsRising), The Hill (The Arc and Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality and the National Partnership for Women & Families), the Richmond Times-Dispatch (the National Partnership and Progress Virginia), the Boulder Daily Camera (State Innovation Exchange) and Shondaland (the National Partnership). Slate’s Better Life Lab blog dedicated a series to the FMLA anniversary that featured contributions from Family Values @ Work, New America and two pieces from the National Partnership, including one on the history of the FMLA.
At the FMLA congressional reception on Feb. 5, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said that “the only reason anything happens in Washington is because people across the country stand up and demand it.” With the mobilization of so many working people, organizations, lawmakers and business leaders this week, a strong national paid family and medical leave policy like the FAMILY Act is surely on the horizon.
Events Across the Country
- Center for American Progress: Good for Business: Making the Case for Strong Work-Life Policies, a conversation with business leaders
- Family Values @ Work: Press conference on the need to defend Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act
- Human Rights Campaign: Congressional briefing on a survey of LGBTQ+ families on paid leave
- Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota: Roundtable with Minnesota federal and state lawmakers
- Sen. Angus King (I-Maine): Event joining leadership and employees at Avesta Housing in Portland to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the FMLA
- MomsRising: Delivery of personal stories and resources to members of Congress
- The Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network, Geben Communication, the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio: Screening of “Zero Weeks”
- Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.): Digital roundtable on FAMILY Act and Colorado FAMLI Act
- YWCA: Congressional briefing and reception, “Building a Safe, Economically Secure Future for Women and Girls”
Blog Posts, Statements and Other Publications
- 1,000 Days: It’s time for Change — It’s Time for Paid Family Leave
- AARP: The Family And Medical Leave Act Remains Vital for Older Workers
- A Better Balance: A Foundation and A Blueprint
- American Sustainable Business Council: Policy Points: Paid Leave for Less Than 1/2 Cent per Dollar of Pay
- The Arc: How the Family and Medical Leave Act Saved My Family
- Bell Policy Center: Testimony: Support FAMLI to Give Colorado Workers Paid Leave
- Boston College Center for Work and Family: FMLA Turns 25 Today: It’s Time for US to (Family) Act
- Center for American Progress: Why Strong Work-Life Policies Are Good for Business; Jaqueline’s Story: Paid Family Leave
- Center for Economic and Policy Research: America Needs a National Paid Family and Medical Leave Program that Works for Working Families
- Center for Parental Leave Resources: FMLA is Twenty-Five! A Roundup of Anniversary Articles and Resources
- The Century Foundation: New York State’s New Paid Family Leave Law Is the Strongest One Yet
- Economic Policy Institute: Providing unpaid leave was only the first step; 25 years after the Family and Medical Leave Act, more workers need paid leave
- First Focus: Building on the Foundation of FMLA: How Paid and Medical Family Leave Would Help Children Nationwide
- Human Rights Campaign: 2018 U.S. LGBTQ Paid Leave Survey (Report); HRC Releases First-Of-Its-Kind Survey of LGBTQ Community on Need for Paid Family and Medical Leave
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research: Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance: Modest Costs are a Good investment in America’s Economy; 25 Years after FMLA: Research Finds that Paid Leave is a Great Investment
- Jacqueline James (co-director of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College) and Professor Jennifer Greenfield (assistant professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work): Family and Medical Leave Act at 25: What’s Next?
- Legal Aid at Work: As FMLA turns 25, California expands access to family leave, but gaps remain
- Main Street Alliance: The View From Main Street: Paid Family and Medical Leave
- National Military Family Association: Family and Medical Leave Act: What is it and Can Military Families Use It?
- National Partnership for Women & Families: With Nation’s Unpaid Leave Law Turning 25 Next Week, New Analysis Shows Workers in Every State Urgently Need a National Paid Leave Program; Paid Family and Medical Leave Means a Stronger Nation; As the Family and Medical Leave Act Turns 25, the Country Urgently Needs a National Paid Leave Plan, Women’s Leader Says; Fighting for Families Means Fighting for National Paid Family and Medical Leave (for SiX); Economic Costs of Inaction on Paid Leave infographic
- Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network: Guest Blog: Paid Family and Medical Leave is Good Business; Twenty-Five Years Later: What’s Next for American Workers After 25 Years of the Family Medical Leave Act?
- Washington Center for Equitable Growth: After 25 years, it’s time for paid leave
Celebrating 25 Years of the FMLA With a Resounding Call for Paid Leave for All was originally published in Support Paid Leave on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
By: National Partnership
“Netflix parents get a paid year off and Amazon pays for spouses’ parental leave.”
That recent headline reminds us that paid leave is a fairly common perk at tech companies, particularly in Silicon Valley where the competition for talent is steep.
Yet, that’s not reality for most Americans. Only 15 percent of the American workforce has access to paid family leave, including just 4 percent of hourly workers, the people who often need it most.
Paid leave is too important to be relegated to a Silicon Valley perk. We need a nationally funded policy, which is why I support passage of the affordable, inclusive Family And Medical Insurance Leave Act — or FAMILY Act — and hope Congress will act swiftly to pass it.
But American families can’t bank on hope. Given the current political environment, there’s no way to know if, or when, Congress will act — and if they will pass the kind of inclusive, comprehensive policy that the nation needs. While we continue to advocate for a national solution, it’s up to businesses (outside Silicon Valley) to lead on leave.
Entrepreneurs are on the forefront of innovation in so many ways, and we have a responsibility to be on the forefront of innovating workplace policies as well.
I hear you. Most of our businesses aren’t Netflix or Amazon. That’s ok. There are an increasing number of small- to mid-size businesses, nonprofits and municipalities that have figured out how to provide their employees with paid leave. It can be done — it just requires some planning and a commitment from leadership to align your financial interests with your values. Importantly, paid leave can save companies a lot in the long run through better recruitment, retention, and even higher productivity and morale — and it can help companies improve diversity and equity across their ranks.
In April 2016, I introduced “Geben Loves Families,” my PR agency’s paid leave policy. We provide 10 weeks of paid leave to new moms and new dads, whether they give birth or adopt. That’s followed by a two-week flexible period, where the employee can ease back into the work world at their own pace and their own schedule to make the transition as smooth as possible for them and their family.
After being featured in media outlets from Entrepreneur to Refinery29, our policy piqued a lot of interest. As I began having more conversations with business leaders interested in crafting their own paid leave policies, I realized one of the biggest barriers was knowing where to start. That’s what led me to create RewriteTheRules.co, a crowdsourced database of paid leave policies. If you’re like so many other business owners, you’re well-intentioned, but not well-versed in policy-making. For this reason, I created this database to sort by size of company and length of leave.
Paid leave is too important to be luck of the draw. So, while we can make in-roads one company at a time, that’s not enough. The business community needs to make our voices heard. We need to advocate for a national policy that works for businesses of all sizes, just as several states (and every other industrialized country) have done. Contact the Chamber of Commerce. Contact your state legislators. Support the nonprofits and advocacy groups tirelessly working to advance paid leave legislation. If you have a paid leave policy at your company, share how it’s positively impacted your business and how you made the finances work. If you don’t, consider introducing one.
As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of our nation’s historic unpaid leave law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), let’s realize there’s still so much work left to be done. Each of us has a voice and a platform to advocate for change. Let’s use it to rewrite the rules and make paid leave a right, not a perk.
Our country is in the midst of an extraordinary, long-overdue moment. In historic ways, women and our allies are coming together to demand change, equality and respect, especially in the workplace — and guaranteeing paid family and medical leave for all is essential to winning that fight.
Just how bad the paid leave crisis is in each state is the focus of a new analysis released by the National Partnership for Women & Families today, as we approach the 25th anniversary of our nation’s unpaid leave law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), on Feb. 5. Our findings emphasize that the next step — a paid family and medical leave law that doesn’t leave anyone behind — is urgently needed.
The data say it all: In Delaware, all parents hold jobs in 76 percent of households with children — nearly 150,000 homes. And in Pennsylvania, 85 percent of Black mothers, 64 percent of Latina mothers and 50 percent of white mothers are key breadwinners for their families. Women also still tend to be primary caregivers, so paid leave means they don’t have to choose between their families and their jobs.
The aging population and workforce intensify the need for paid leave too. In New Hampshire, the share of the population age 65 and older is projected to grow by nearly 45 percent in less than 15 years. In Colorado, already more than one in five workers are age 55 and older. Older workers are more likely to need care and to need to provide care to partners, siblings, parents and others.
The opioid epidemic makes the need for paid leave even more urgent. In Virginia, four people die every day from drug overdoses. Both those dealing with drug use disorders and their family members need paid leave to seek and support cost-saving, life-saving treatment and combat the epidemic.
Paid leave helps keep women in their jobs, reducing turnover and strengthening our economy. In Nevada, there is a 15-percentage point gap in labor force participation between men and women. And if women participated in the U.S. labor force at the same rates as women in countries with paid leave, our economy would benefit from more than $500 billion in additional economic activity each year.
But not just any national paid leave plan will do. The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act is the leading proposal in Congress for good reason — it’s the only plan that checks all of the boxes by covering all working people for the full range of serious caregiving and medical reasons. It would mean a stronger economy, healthier families and businesses, and more workplace equality.
For 25 years, the FMLA has transformed our workplaces and shown us what is possible when lawmakers come together to advance common sense policies. State and local lawmakers and private sector employers have done better by establishing their own paid leave policies, but too many people are still left behind. It is past time to fulfill the FMLA’s promise of more family friendly workplaces and greater gender and economic equality for our nation. That’s what paid leave means.
Join women, working families, business leaders, lawmakers, advocates and many others who are coming together on Feb. 5 to celebrate the FMLA’s progress and call for the national paid family and medical leave policy the country needs. Use #FMLA25 and #PaidLeaveMeans to share what paid leave means to you. Visit NationalPartnership.org/FMLA25 for more information.
Paid Family and Medical Leave Means a Stronger Nation was originally published in Support Paid Leave on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
By: National Partnership
By Vicki Shabo
With recent attention to the country’s dismal record of making paid leave available to workers, and growing consensus around the need for a national solution, it’s easy to forget the decades of work and milestone victories that have made this moment possible. One of the first happened 15 years ago this week, when California created the nation’s first state paid family leave program. Since then, California has twice improved the program, and a third improvement awaits the governor’s signature. The state’s success has helped build a growing list of business leaders who support national paid leave, and paved the way for four states and the District of Columbia to enact similar programs. And our understanding of what a meaningful paid family and medical leave program must include has grown tremendously as a result.
As the home of 10 percent of the U.S. population and the most diverse state in the nation, California is a valuable case study in how paid leave can and has worked at the state level. Its law created a paid family leave insurance program that built on the state’s temporary disability insurance system. The program enables eligible workers to take up to six weeks of partially paid leave to bond with a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed foster child, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Here’s just some of what it has taught us so far:
- Paid family leave is reasonable and used as intended. As of June 2017, California’s program had been used nearly 2.7 million times by people who needed leave to care for a new child or seriously ill family member. And of the state’s 14 million private sector workers, fewer than 2 percent applied for leave through the program in the past year, which suggests people are requesting leave appropriately. The California Society for Human Resource Management, a group of human resources professionals that initially opposed the law, has said the program is less onerous than expected and few businesses report challenges associated with employees taking leave.
- Paid family leave results in more equitable leave-taking. California’s program has reduced disparities across race and gender. Before the program was in place, Black mothers in the state took, on average, just one week of maternity leave while white mothers took four weeks. Now, Black women take an average of six weeks — the same amount as white women. And the average for all new mothers has doubled from three weeks to six weeks. The number of fathers requesting leave has grown especially dramatically — by 400 percent in the program’s first seven years alone. Today, men make nearly 40 percent of parental leave requests.
- Paid family leave helps employers, in addition to workers and families. The vast majority of California employers report that the state’s paid family leave law has had a positive or no noticeable effect on profitability and employee productivity and performance. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees in particular say it has had a positive or neutral effect on profitability, productivity and employee morale. The same survey revealed that three in five California employers report coordinating their paid leave policies with the state’s insurance program, likely resulting in cost savings.
- Paid family leave must reflect the diversity of families and care needs today. In addition to demonstrating that providing gender-neutral access to paid leave has a significantly positive effect on the number of men who take leave and provide care, California’s program has also taught us that even more family members need and provide care today. In 2013, after it became clear that the program was not adequately meeting the state’s family caregiving needs, lawmakers expanded it to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and parents-in-law as family members for whom people can take leave.
- Paid family leave must adequately protect workers’ wages and jobs. In 2016, after studies showed that many lower-wage workers couldn’t afford to use California’s program, and even higher-wage workers said affordability was an issue, the state increased the wage replacement rate from 55 percent to 70 percent for low-income workers and to 60 percent for higher-income workers. And earlier this month, because only people who work for employers with 50 or more employees have job protection under the law — meaning they are entitled to the same or an equivalent job when returning from leave — the legislature passed a bill to extend that protection to new parents who work for smaller employers. Gov. Brown has until Oct. 15 to sign the measure.
Many of the states and municipalities that have established paid leave programs and policies in the years following California’s law have applied these lessons by not only prioritizing the issue, but also by enacting broader definitions of “family,” providing more progressive wage replacement, and taking steps to provide job protection for more workers. The most recent states to act, New York and Washington, have gone a step further to provide more weeks of leave. These programs are building on the successes and challenges experienced in California, further refining what a strong paid leave policy looks like.
As the national conversation about paid leave continues, lawmakers should pay close attention to the years of research and policy testing that has been happening in California, other states and municipalities, and within the private sector. There are valuable lessons to be learned about what works, and the details matter tremendously. The nation needs a smart program that builds on these lessons and checks all the boxes. Right now, the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act is the only federal proposal that does so. Its passage should be the country’s next paid leave milestone.
15 Years, Five Key Lessons: California Continues to Lead the Nation Toward Paid Leave for All was originally published in Support Paid Leave on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
By: National Partnership
As many federal lawmakers were focused on rolling back and undermining the rights of people across the country this year, some state lawmakers considered bills aimed at helping people — specifically, measures that would guarantee access to paid sick time and paid leave. Paid sick days policies enable working people to take fully paid time off to recover from common short-term illnesses or health issues, such as the flu, or for preventive care. Paid family and medical leave or “paid leave” policies enable people to take longer periods of time — partially or fully paid — for a personal serious medical condition or to care for a new child or a family member with a serious health condition.
In a testament to the popularity and demand for these policies and tireless advocacy efforts, lawmakers introduced paid sick days bills in 19 states and paid family and medical leave bills in 31 states this year, and some states considered more than one bill. Currently, only seven states and the District of Columbia have, or will soon have, paid sick days laws in place and just five states and the District of Columbia have or will soon establish paid family and medical leave programs. As legislators and advocates prepare for 2018, here are the best and worst developments of 2017.
Providing a Sufficient Amount of Leave. Twenty-three paid sick days bills introduced in 2017 would allow workers to accrue five or more days of sick time, which is in line with the majority of paid sick days laws across the country. For example, both the Maryland bill that was sent to the governor and the Rhode Island bill that passed the Senate allowed for a maximum of five days. Additionally, 22 paid leave bills provided for at least 12 weeks of leave, which is in line with New York’s groundbreaking paid family leave law that passed in 2016. This includes Washington state’s 2017 paid leave victory, which raised the bar by providing up to 16 weeks of combined paid family and medical leave, and up to 18 weeks under some circumstances.
Making Paid Leave Affordable for Low-Income Workers. Several state paid leave bills in 2017 had progressive wage replacement structures — a trend seen in 2016, including in D.C.’s paid leave law. “Progressive wage replacement” means that workers who are paid less have a greater portion of their income replaced when they take leave, compared to higher wage workers, which makes paid leave more accessible to people who most need the financial stability paid leave provides. For example, Washington state’s new law includes a progressive wage replacement structure in which lower-wage workers receive 90 percent of their wages while on leave. Again, this will mean that more lower-wage workers will be able to take the leave they need.
Recognizing the Diversity of Family Relationships. The definition of “family” in paid sick days bills this year extended beyond child, parent or spouse to include grandparents, grandchildren and siblings — whether biological, foster, adoptive, step, half or in-law — as well as domestic partners, guardians and those for whom the employee acts as a parent. Minnesota’s paid sick days bill also allowed employees to care for anyone with whom they have “the equivalent of a family relationship,” and up to one person designated annually. Similarly, Hawaii’s paid family leave bill enabled workers to select a “designated person” for whom they could take leave, regardless of a legal or blood relationship. Although many caregiving relationships continue to be left out, there is movement in the right direction.
Not Covering All of the Reasons People Need Paid Leave. Most paid leave bills this year covered leave for family care, one’s own serious health condition and the arrival of a new child, but some, such as Oklahoma’s bill, left out personal medical leave. Others, including bills in South Dakota and Texas, were even less inclusive because they did not include comprehensive family care leave and instead only provided for parental leave. These limitations disadvantage the majority of people who need paid family and medical leave, such as those with disabilities and those who do not intend to have children. When more than 75 percent of people who take unpaid family and medical leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act each year do so for family caregiving and medical reasons, that means millions are left behind.
Offering Harmful and Illusory Paid Leave Solutions. Although the increased interest in paid leave policies — evidenced by the number of bills introduced in 2017 — is encouraging, lawmakers in some states, such as Arkansas and Nevada, introduced inadequate measures that would not have meaningfully improved people’s access to paid family and medical leave. These include proposals that would give tax credits to employers that offer paid leave, which would most benefit those employers who already offer it, and proposals to create tax-deductible savings accounts for workers to use for their caregiving needs, which would not help people who do not have income to set aside or who face unanticipated caregiving needs.
Discriminating Between Parental Caregivers. Again, parental-leave-only paid leave proposals are insufficient and leave too many people behind. They are even more harmful if they do not provide the same amount of leave to all parents. Most of this year’s paid parental leave bills did offer leave to all new parents, but some fell far short. For example, an Arkansas bill to provide paid leave to state government employees, as introduced, would have only provided time to female employees for the birth or adoption of a new child. Such exclusions reflect antiquated ideas about gender and caregiving roles, disregard the growing number of fathers who want to care for their new children, ignore the needs and experiences of same-sex parents, and exacerbate gender inequality.
Excluding People Who Work for Smaller Businesses. Paid sick days bills in Nevada, Hawaii, South Dakota and Maine only provided paid sick time to workers in businesses with 50 or more employees, even though people who work for smaller businesses have the same need for paid sick days as those who work for larger businesses. Many businesses with 50 or fewer employees also operate within the restaurant, child care and other industries that require public contact. A few paid leave bills left out smaller businesses too. These bills perpetuate inequities and fail to account for workers who move between small and large employers, and businesses that move above and below the size threshold. Every existing state paid leave program covers employers of all sizes.
As the momentum around paid sick days and paid family and medical leave policies continues, advocates and lawmakers should take note of the most promising paths and dangerous pitfalls in the current policy landscape. The bills introduced this year are a good indication of the opportunities and challenges ahead, and the details matter tremendously. Pursuing sound, responsible policies designed to satisfy the needs of all working people, businesses and our economy by building on the successes and lessons learned through existing policies must be a top priority. Families and communities across the country deserve no less.
Alex Baptiste and Vasu Reddy, policy counsels at the National Partnership, contributed to this post.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Paid Sick Days and Paid Leave in the States in 2017 was originally published in Support Paid Leave on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
By: National Partnership
One of my most emotionally potent childhood memories is of a video of my father reading a book to my brother and me as young children. Almost 30 years later, I remember I used to sit and cry watching the video because my dad was so far away. My father was in the Navy and gone for most of my childhood: out to sea or deployed to a number of different bases around the world.
Because of my own experience, I have always wanted to be as present and involved as possible in my children’s lives. Almost eight months ago, my wife Andrea and I were blessed with the birth of our daughter Maya. Thankfully, my employer truly values family time, and I was able to take two months of paid parental leave, and to extend my time off for an additional month using vacation time. People in my community — and elsewhere in the United States — are not as lucky. Frankly, paid parental leave should never be a matter of luck.
I am a rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, Texas, which is a member congregation of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). For many years, the URJ has staunchly advocated for social justice for all — for women, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and people from all faiths and backgrounds who lack basic civil and human rights. In 2015, the Reform Movement passed a resolution advocating for paid family leave, which refers to time away from one’s job, often of extended duration, with full or partial pay, to attend to the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child, as well as to address a serious personal illness, or the serious illness of a family member.
As a rabbi in the Reform Movement, I am also a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), which also takes a progressive position on paid family leave. In the most recent handbook for placement of newly ordained rabbis the CCAR states:
“Given Judaism’s traditional commitment to the family, congregations should gladly support the decision of rabbis to raise a family. Fathers, as well as mothers, should be afforded every opportunity to devote themselves to parenting. Therefore, congregations should grant at least a two-month parental leave at full pay for their rabbis. Parental leave should apply to all rabbis regardless of marital status, gender, or sexual orientation. This applies to adoptive parents as well.”
After Maya was born, Andrea and I coordinated our leave time so that we were able to spend the first two weeks of Maya’s life together as a family. Then Andrea took the rest of her leave (which she, unlike too many new moms, was lucky to have). When she went back to work, I resumed my leave.
This solo time with Maya was simultaneously one of the most meaningful and most exhausting times of my life. When babies are so young, and you have the chance to spend all day with them for three consecutive months, you literally get to watch them grow. I look back now at the pictures I took during my time off with her and it is absolutely amazing how much she changed over that three-month period. I got to experience her first laughs, her first babbling.
I tried to get out of the house as often as we could so that Maya would be able to experience as much as possible, and so that I wouldn’t go stir crazy at home. We went to Central Market, to the Austin Zoo, to Books and Babies at the Austin Library and to our local park. In all these places, I could see her brain and her world expand — colors at the market, fascinating faces of people and animals at the zoo, singing and music at the library, and bugs and flowers at the park. I loved carrying her in her front carrier while she slept and then seeing her wake up to take in the world after each nap.
One thing I noticed most places we would go is that I was often the only solo father with his child. Every now and again, there was another dad, but it was rare, and usually he would be there with the baby’s mom.
I pray that one day our society will truly learn to see value in this incredibly important family time. If we had a system that guaranteed paid leave, perhaps we would see more dads and babies at the grocery store, the library, the park, or the zoo; more fathers able to bond with their children during the first few, formative months of their lives.
I hope that day isn’t far off, because all of us are better when we have time to care.
That is how much paternity leave my father’s company offered him when my parents were preparing to welcome me into the world. He then cobbled together another week of vacation time so he could bond with me as a newborn and help my mom. My mom worked at the same company and had access to six weeks of maternity leave and one week of vacation time, which she used to extend her maternity leave. It is astounding to realize that they were among the very lucky ones because then — like today — access to paid leave was rare.
Despite those challenges, my father was determined to be as involved as he could. My parents often recount how my dad ensured our house was stocked with a plethora of baby supplies, groceries and anything else my mom could possibly need while he was at work. He also made sure there was always a family member, usually my grandmother, on deck to take my mother to my well-baby visits if he was not able to work from home that day to attend himself. At the end of the day though, it all mostly fell on my mom (sound familiar?) and it took longer for my father to bond with me, since he was spending more time away. Being a parent to a newborn is hard. Even when you have done it before. Even when you have access to other supports that make the transition smoother.
Access to paid leave is one possible solution to addressing care challenges, but changing how we view who takes leave and gives care within our culture is just as important. In general, women are — and are seen — as the primary caregivers for ill family members, but we should not forget that more than 40 percent of family caregivers are men. Changing the way we think about who paid family and medical leave is for is paramount to achieving gender equity when it comes to childrearing and caregiving. Men want to be there not only when a new child is born but also to care for a parent battling a serious illness, or for their spouse’s surgery, or for an adult child with a chronic condition or for any other curveball life throws at them. Any federal paid leave program must be comprehensive to allow working people to address the full range of caregiving responsibilities. Fathers are caregivers who want and need to be there for their families, like my dad did and still does.
My family was blessed to have access to paid leave and other workplace supports, but paid paternity leave and paid family leave in general are still seriously lacking for the vast majority of America’s families. In fact, just 14 percent of workers have paid family leave through their jobs; only 9 percent of workers are at worksites where all employees have access to paid paternity leave. Workplaces still do not reflect working people’s need for flexibility and access to paid family leave for the important moments in life — moments that should not mean having to miss a paycheck or even losing a job.
And even though paid parental leave is essential for parents as they get to know their children, paid parental leave makes up less than one-quarter of the serious family and medical leave workers take each year. Children grow up and, in many cases, end up needing to provide care to their parents.
As the circle of life goes, one day my father may need care too. Right now, whether I would be able to provide that care depends on residing in one of the small number of states that have created paid family and medical leave insurance programs or having an employer that offers me paid leave. I hope I will not have to struggle to care for him as he ages, as he struggled to care for me when I entered into the world.
Earlier this year, members of Congress reintroduced the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would create a nationwide paid family and medical leave program in the United States. The FAMILY Act would help parents bond with a new child, help sons and daughters care for a seriously ill or injured parent, and help everyone deal with their own serious health issues. It would provide 12 weeks of paid leave funded through small, shared payroll contributions. This program would allow families and individuals to be there when they are needed most without compromising their financial security. That peace of mind is priceless.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and father figures out there doing the work. You are appreciated and essential today and every day.
*For more information on why fathers need paid family and medical leave, check out this fact sheet.
Choosing the Daddy Track: Being There is the Battle was originally published in Support Paid Leave on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
By: Voices for Paid Leave
The vast majority of Americans lack access to paid family and medical leave. In recent years, a few states — California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York (whose program will begin in 2018) — have created their own paid family leave programs to complement existing medical leave (temporary disability) programs. The District of Columbia also recently enacted a paid family and medical leave program scheduled to begin in 2019. But in all other 46 states, there is no public program, and most American workers do not have access to paid family or medical leave through their employer.1 In May 2017, the Trump Administration put forward a proposal in its budget request to provide six weeks of paid parental leave through the unemployment insurance system, starting in 2020. 2 This report analyzes the Trump proposal and its shortcomings. We find that the proposal:
Omits many valuable types of caregiving and medical leave;
Fails to provide dedicated federal funding, instead imposing an unfunded mandate on states to finance paid leave out of their unemployment insurance trust funds, which would likely harm unemployed workers in many states; and
Would likely provide low benefit levels, posing particular challenges for lower-wage workers.
Trump’s Paid Leave Plan: Pitting the Unemployed Against Working Families was originally published in Support Paid Leave on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.