Family Values @ Work

Happy Birthday FMLA!

August 2, 2013

Know Your Rights, Expand Your Rights

At some point, nearly everyone needs time to recover from a serious illness or care for a sick loved one or new child. But the majority of working people in the United States cannot take the leave they need without risking their jobs or economic security. A national Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) program would allow people to receive a portion of their wages when they need time for family or medical reasons – resulting in significant benefits for their families, businesses and our economy. See some of the key facts below – and sign our petition on urging Congress to take action!

  • Only 11 percent of the U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers.  That means millions of workers who develop serious health conditions, have seriously ill family members or become parents are forced to choose between what is best for them and their families and income they need to cover basic expenses.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act – the only federal law designed to help working people meet the dual demands of job and family – leaves out 40 percent of the workforce and guarantees only unpaid leave, which millions cannot afford to take.

“People desperately want to have successful families, to be good parents, to have a job and succeed at it. If you take one away to get the other, the country pays a grievous price and every life is diminished.” 

–       President Bill Clinton, February 5, 2013


Paid leave enables families to maintain economic stability during a family health crisis or following the birth or adoption of a baby. 

  • In 2010, nearly three quarters of children had both parents or their only parent working, a 13 percent increase since the mid-1980’s when FMLA was first drafted. 
  • Women are the primary or co-breadwinners for nearly two-thirds of the nation’s families, so a woman’s income loss during pregnancy or maternity leave has significant economic consequences for her family.
  • Women who take paid leave after a child’s birth are more likely to be employed the following year and report increased wages than women who do not take leave.  Parents who took leave report lower levels of public assistance in the year following their child’s birth, when compared to those without paid leave. 
  • Studies show that seven percent of people who filed for bankruptcy cited the birth of a child as the cause. A significant number of bankruptcies also happen after a worker misses two of more weeks of work due to illness.
  • Family and medical leave insurance increases men’s role in caregiving by making it possible for them to be involved without the family taking a big financial hit. In California, for example, fathers’ leave-taking for bonding with a new child rose 12 percent from 2011 to 2012.
  • FMLI enables people to care for aging parents with serious health problems—an increasingly common responsibility as the population ages.  Forty-eight percent of family caregivers who have to take time off to care for a family member lost income during that time. 


Ensuring that new parents can take time to care for a newborn gives babies their best start in life.

  • Four-fifths of respondents who took paid leaves reported they were better able to care for a new baby.  New mothers who take paid leave are more likely to take the minimum doctor-recommended six to eight weeks to recover from birth.  Newborns whose mothers take 12 weeks of leave are more likely to be breastfed, receive regular check-ups, and get critical immunizations.
  • Paid parental leave reduces infant mortality and produces better long-term health outcomes, especially for children with chronic health conditions.


Care by adult children helps seniors stay in their homes and avoid more expensive nursing home care.

  • By 2030, the number of Americans over 65 will be 70 million—double today’s 35 million. Nearly two-thirds of Americans under the age of 60 expect to be responsible for the care of an elder relative within the next ten years, and by 2020 about 40 percent of the workforce will be caring for older parents.
  • Enabling families to care for aging parents without fear of losing all their wages and allowing seniors to age in their homes instead of state facilities, saves the state money.
  • When cared for by family members, patients in the hospital recover from illness and injury faster, leading to shorter hospital stays, improved health outcomes, and decreased health costs. 


Replacement income provided by FMLI goes right back into the local economy, boosting businesses, as workers spend it to help cover the basics.

  • Business owners cite weak sales as the biggest problem for their business and the economy, according to a joint survey by the American Sustainable Business Council, the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority. 
  • A 2011 study of California’s FMLI program estimated that it would save employers $89 million a year. A recent Rutgers study shows that New Jersey’s FMLI program has saved businesses money by improving employee retention, decreasing turnover costs, and improving productivity.


Across the country, diverse state coalitions are working to introduce and pass FMLI to support families and boost the economy.

  • In 2002, California became the first state to pass a Paid Family Leave (PFL) program, followed in 2009 by New Jersey. The programs have been enormously successful. Californians have used the fund 1.4 million times since implementation.
  • Rhode Island is the third state to adopt a family leave insurance program, and broke new ground by protecting the jobs of all workers who need to take time to care for family members.
  • In Washington State, a paid leave program awaits funding. After Rhode Island, New York State is the next state likely to pass a family leave insurance program. Vermont and Connecticut have each approved a task force to explore the issue. Several other states are laying the groundwork for similar legislation.
  • Federal legislation is expected to be introduced soon.

Take action! Sign our petition on




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