• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Coco Das
#OUTNOW
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail