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28 Years Since the FMLA, National Paid Leave Is More Necessary Than Ever

Nearly three decades later, we are overdue for the next step: comprehensive and permanent, job-protected paid family and medical leave that covers all workers and recognizes all kinds of families.
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February 5th marks 28 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law, providing job-protected time off for millions of workers to care for themselves and their families. Enactment of this law was an incredibly important step—for many workers, this is the only form of job-protected leave they have available, and A Better Balance is dedicated to robust enforcement of this law through litigation and public education.

However, 40 percent of workers are excluded from the FMLA’s protections, and many more cannot afford to take the unpaid leave it offers. Nearly three decades later, we are overdue for the next step: comprehensive and permanent, job-protected paid family and medical leave that covers all workers and recognizes all kinds of families.

This week, Congress took an important step towards instituting a permanent paid family and medical leave program with the re-introduction of the FAMILY Act. The FAMILY Act would provide workers with 12 weeks of benefits when they need time off from work to care for a new child, a family member with a serious health need, or one’s own medical needs.

In the meanwhile, states have been leading the way in instituting strong paid leave programs. Most recently, Colorado voters made history by overwhelmingly approving a paid family and medical leave ballot initiative. Colorado joined 8 other states, and Washington D.C. in providing workers with this essential protection.

We continue to hear every day from workers—disproportionately women and people of color—who have for too long been forced to sacrifice their economic security in order to care for themselves and their loved ones. The pandemic has sharply exacerbated these systemic injustices and our nation’s resulting care crisis. We will keep pushing and working with Congress until they enact the permanent paid leave program we need, in addition to immediate emergency measures.

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