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Anne Hedgepeth's picture

This post originally appeared on the AAUW website.

Since the Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law in 1993, its job-protected leave has been used more than 100 million times to help employees recover from their own major medical situations or to care for loved ones. Because so many Americans work and are also caregivers — for children and spouses but also for aging parents and grandparents — family and medical leave is key to employees’ success in the workplace. That’s why AAUW has long called for a federal paid family and medical leave program and supports this week’s introduction of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

While FMLA is a success story, many Americans do not use their FMLA leave because it is unpaid, and they cannot afford the time off of work without a paycheck. In addition, many more Americans are not covered by FMLA either because they work for a small business or do not have the tenure in their current job to access leave. Very few workers, only 11 percent of the private sector workforce, have paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. Workers nationwide need the FAMILY Act.

The FAMILY Act would create a self-sustaining fund, which both employees and employers contribute to, to ensure that people have a much-needed paycheck when using family and medical leave. Employees would earn a portion of their wages for a limited period of time to address their own serious health issue; to deal with the serious health issue of a parent, spouse, domestic partner, or child; to care for a new child; or for particular military caregiving and leave purposes.

We know that paid family and medical leave works: It helps employees take care of themselves and their families and go back to work. Such programs have existed in California since 2004 and in New Jersey since 2009. Analyses of the implementation of California’s program show that both employers and employees have benefitted. Just this year, Rhode Island passed a program that will be implemented in 2014.

Join AAUW in supporting the FAMILY Act by writing to your representatives about how important paid family and medical leave is to you and to your loved ones.

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