On February 1, 2023, Democratic lawmakers marked the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) with a press conference announcing a new legislative package to establish a paid family and medical leave program and to expand and modernize FMLA. The FMLA program has successfully allowed employees to take reasonable time off to attend to certain family obligations without fear of losing their jobs, but it has not been available to all employees and has not protected individuals from financial hardship during their time away from work.
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), along with Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Tina Smith (D-MN) and Representatives Richie Neal (D-MA), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Sean Casten (D-IL), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) introduced several new bills.
The FAMILY Act (Rep DeLauro and Senator Gillibrand) would establish America’s first national paid family and medical leave program, ensuring that every worker, regardless of the size of their employer or if they are self-employed or part-time, has access to paid leave for every serious medical event.
The Education Support Professionals (ESP) Family Leave Act (Senator Duckworth and Rep Casten) would ensure that education support professionals have access to unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act benefits, which they currently cannot access.
The Job Protection Act (Senator Smith and Rep Underwood) would expand FMLA protections to workers for smaller employers, protecting part-time workers, and ensuring those changing jobs or returning to the workforce will be able to access leave.
Paid family and medical leave has been shown to reduce overall healthcare costs and would provide economic stability for children and their families. Research cited by Pew Research highlights that the United States is out of step with much of the rest of the world when it comes to family leave: across 41 countries, America is the only one that does not mandate paid leave. It’s time for Congress to provide paid leave for every family in the United States, starting with passing the bills listed above.