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What the FAMILY Act Means for All Americans

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who introduced the FAMILY Act along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), speaks at the Center for American Progress's 10th Anniversary Policy Conference, Thursday, October 24, 2013.

In many ways, families look the same today as they have for decades. People fall in love and get married. Babies are born, grow up, and start the cycle anew. Parents and family members age and often rely on care from others during their senior years. While the love that bonds family life has not changed over time, the way families live and work has. Most parents work, and most families rely on two incomes; more families are providing elder care as Baby Boomers age, and 80 percent of children live in a household without a full-time stay-at-home caregiver. Families today do not love each other any less than in the past, but how families juggle work and family has changed dramatically—and workplace policies have not kept up.

The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee workers access to any form of paid leave. Without access to leave, individuals too often find themselves in a position where they have to choose between providing care for a loved one and bringing in enough money to cover rent, groceries, and basic household repairs. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, will help address this core issue facing working families today: the need to coordinate paid employment with unpaid caregiving in the home. While we pay a great deal of attention to the role of mothers as caregivers, even mothers themselves will at some point rely on partners, sons, daughters, or other relatives for care. As gender roles and families change and as Baby Boomers retire, everyone is increasingly likely to be a caregiver. The FAMILY Act will provide up to 12 weeks of leave with partial wage replacement to male and female workers after the birth of a new child, to recover from a serious illness, or to provide care for a seriously ill family member.

Access to family leave insurance is designed to benefit all workers, regardless of their gender, parental status, age, ability, or income level. While the program has universal benefits, there are also specific ways that it will benefit certain groups of workers. The following fact sheets provide detailed information on these specific benefits:

Sarah Jane Glynn is Associate Director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. Jane Farrell is a Research Associate for Economic Policy at the Center.