FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will the US Ever Catch Up to the Rest of the World on Paid Family Leave?

by

On Aug. 5, 1993, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) went into effect. In the 21 years since, it’s been used over 100 million times, allowing many working Americans to take time off to bond with new children, or to care for themselves or family members when seriously ill or injured, without the fear of losing their jobs.

Though that is certainly something to celebrate, more than four private-sector employees in every 10 aren’t even eligible for the FMLA. That’s close to 50 million workers who can be fired for taking needed family or medical leave. The main reasons for this huge gap are that only firms with 50 or more employees, and only workers who have at least 1,250 hours with their current employer over the past year, are covered by the FMLA.

In addition, the FMLA guarantees just unpaid time off, which means that many employees who have the right to take family or medical leave simply can’t afford to do so. My colleagues at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) looked at FMLA surveys and found that more than 2.5 million working Americans each year cannot afford to take necessary, but unpaid, leave. In fact, half of private-sector workers who needed to take leave (but did not) reported not being able to afford unpaid leave as the main reason for not taking the time off.

Job Protection Isn’t Enough: Why America Needs Paid Parental Leave, a look at parental leaves since the passage of the FMLA by the Center for American Progress and the CEPR, paints a similar picture. The authors observe that not many more working men and women are taking parental leave than when the law was passed two decades ago. Less than half of those employees receive any pay during their time off. And less-educated workers, for example, are much less likely to take parental leave, reflecting other types of inequities in our economy.

The United States is the only high-income country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid family and medical leave. The International Labour Organization recently reviewed paid parental leave laws in 185 nations, and the United States stood out as one of just three — along with Papua New Guinea and Oman — that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave. The CEPR looked at medical leave in 22 developed countries and similarly discovered that the U.S. was the only nation that didn’t provide any paid time off for serious illness.

Some members of Congress are working to ensure that fewer working Americans fall through the cracks, though. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has introduced a bill that would expand the FMLA to cover workplaces with at least 25 employees (down from the current floor of 50 employees). The CEPR has found that lowering that threshold would give more than 4.7 million workers access to job-protected family and medical leave.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) go even farther: They’ve introduced legislation that would provide working Americans with about two-thirds of their pay during family or medical leave. Their bills would set up an insurance program, funded by employer and employee contributions of just two-tenths of a percent of payroll, to cover such leaves.

Success stories from the states prove that such a program would work. California has been running a paid family leave program for a decade. A comprehensive analysis of the program by sociologist Ruth Milkman and economist Eileen Appelbaum finds, for example, that large majorities of employers reported negligible or positive impacts on productivity, profitability and performance. New Jersey has had such a program in place for five years, and interviews with employers reveal that the law has had little to no impact on how companies do business in the state.

The FMLA was a big step forward that’s helped millions of working families cope when faced with serious health conditions, injuries incurred during military service, pregnancies, bonding with a new child or other illnesses or disabilities. But after 21 years, it’s well past time for this nation to take another step and start catching up with the rest of the globe, by guaranteeing working Americans paid family and medical leave.

Nicole Woo is the director of domestic policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Woman’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail