Recently, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced the FAMILY Act for the 118th Congress. This bill, which has been reintroduced in every Congress since 2013, would guarantee workers the right to paid, job-protected time off for serious health and caregiving needs.
This column lists five fast facts on the FAMILY Act.
Read more on the state of paid leave in the United States
1. It’s designed to cover all workers
The FAMILY Act reflects the fact that in today’s economy, workers may change jobs more frequently, work multiple jobs, or work for themselves. That’s why it covers all employees—whether in the public or private sector and regardless of industry or employer size—as well as all self-employed people. Because of the law’s inclusivity, those too often left out, such as seasonal, part-time, temporary, and gig workers, will be covered in ways that work. Benefits will be portable, meaning that employees can qualify based on income earned from multiple sources and keep the benefits they have earned even as they move among roles. And the bill’s policy design ensure that workers won’t lose out because of a gap in employment, whether due to a layoff or a health or caregiving needs.
2. It fulfills needs across the lifespan
Under the FAMILY Act, workers would be able to take leave to address their own serious health needs, which research shows is the most common reason workers use leave. Individuals could also use leave to care for a seriously ill loved one, to bond with a new child, or to address the impact of military deployment. And for the first time in the FAMILY Act’s history, this Congress’ version also covers “safe leave”—time to deal with the impact of sexual or domestic violence.
3. It recognizes all families
As Center for American Progress research has highlighted, inclusive paid leave policies must include time off to care for all people workers consider family. For the 118th Congress, the FAMILY Act now includes an improved and expanded family definition, allowing care not only for a parent, child, or spouse, but also for extended family members and “any other individual who is related by blood or affinity and whose association with the individual involved is equivalent of a family relationship.”
4. It builds on –and lifts up—successful state programs
Twelve states and Washington, D.C., have already passed their own paid family and medical leave programs, with Minnesota as the most recent addition. Nearly all of these laws have been passed since Congress originally introduced the FAMILY Act. The revised FAMILY Act reflects lessons learned from these states, such as making wage replacement rates progressive and removing unpaid waiting periods. At the same time, the FAMILY Act offers states the opportunity to continue their programs even after federal paid leave is implemented, coordinated with federal benefits and backed by federal funding.
5. It protects workers’ jobs
For the first time, the FAMILY Act includes the right not only to cash benefits but also to critically needed employment protections. All workers would be protected against retaliation for using their rights and against efforts to deny or interfere with those rights. And for those who have been with their employer for at least 90 days, the FAMILY Act would guarantee the right to get their job or an equivalent job back following leave and to keep their health insurance during leave. These rights are critical to ensuring that workers can truly use the benefits they have earned, without risking their job or their care.
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Paid leave means being able to be there for first breaths and last words. It means getting the care you need, when you need it—without risking the roof over your head. It means peace of mind, for moments you wish for as well as the ones you hope will never come. The FAMILY Act is the investment America needs in the future it deserves.