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December 12, 2013

FAMILY Act Will Help Strengthen Families and the Economy

Washington, DC – Family Values @ Work, a network of coalitions in 21 states working to pass family-friendly workplace policies, applauded the introduction of a national family leave insurance program in Congress today.

Too many Americans today have to choose between succeeding at their job and caring for a sick child, a newborn or an ailing parent,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work. “Do they jeopardize their health and their family’s health or their family’s financial security? That’s an impossible dilemma that no one should have to face. By creating a national family leave insurance program, the FAMILY Act would make it easier for Americans to be good parents to their kids and good children to their parents without sacrificing the job or pay they need to make ends meet.

When this bill becomes law, millions more will be able to afford time to care for a new baby, their own health or a seriously ill family member without having to worry about paying the rent, putting food on the table, falling into debt or going into bankruptcy. Families will have money in their pockets to cover the basics and spend at local businesses, boosting the local economy in turn. This national bill builds on the successful affordable family leave policies in New Jersey and California and renewed momentum in nearly a dozen states across the country. We are proud to have advocates like Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. DeLauro in Congress fighting for commonsense work-family solutions. It’s time for our elected leaders to hear the overwhelming support of their constituents and pass the FAMILY Act.

The FAMILY Act, which was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the Senate and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in the House of Representatives today, would create a social insurance fund to allow people to receive a portion of their pay when they need time away from their jobs for family or medical reasons – resulting in significant benefits for their families, businesses and our economy. Specifically, the bill would provide workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a personal serious illness, an illness of a child, parent or spouse and the birth or adoption of a child, among others. Workers and employers would each contribute a very small portion of their wages into this insurance program; the self-sustaining fund would mean workers could receive up to 66 percent of their wages while on leave.

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. Currently only 12 percent  of the U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. 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.

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, with 1.4 million claims filed in California and more than 138,000 filed in New Jersey since their implementation, and high levels of support among business owners and workers. Now Rhode Island has joined them with a precedent-setting law that protects the jobs of all workers who need to use the fund. In Washington State, a paid leave program awaits funding. New York State is the next state likely to pass a family leave insurance program. Connecticut and several other states are laying the groundwork for similar legislation.

There is also broad support among the business community for paid family and medical leave programs because businesses understand it’s good for their bottom line. California employers report that the program has had a neutral or positive effect on employee productivity, profitability, and turnover, and most employers coordinate their own benefits with the state’s PFL program. 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.


 Family Values @ Work is a network of coalitions in 21 states working to pass policies that value families at work such as paid sick days and affordable family leave. More information at http://familyvaluesatwork.org.

CONTACT: Laura Brandon, laura.brandon@berlinrosen.com, 202-800-8690

Read the personal stories of working people across the country who benefitted from affordable family leave or suffered due to the lack of protection.