Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) today introduced new legislation that would create paid family and medical leave. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, ensuring that American workers would no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a family member. They will be joined by business leaders and advocates, who will talk about why the bill makes sense for businesses, as well as employees.
“When a young parent needs time to care for a newborn child – it should never come down to an outdated policy that lets her boss decide how long it will take – and decide the fate of her career and her future along with it. When any one of us – man or woman – needs time to care for a dying parent – we should not have to sacrifice our job and risk our future to do the right thing for our family. Choosing between your loved ones and your career and your future is a choice no one should have to make,” said Senator Gillibrand.
“In 1986, when I was Chief of Staff to Senator Chris Dodd, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “My doctors caught it early, but I still needed time for radiation treatment, recuperation and recovery. Senator Dodd told me to focus on getting well, and to take the time I needed. I could get better without worrying if I was out of a job or paycheck. All workers should have this opportunity when they need it. No one should have to choose between their job and taking care of themself and their family. With the FAMILY Act, they would not have to.”
“No legislation would do more to make this a family friendly nation than the FAMILY Act,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. The National Partnership led the effort to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which is the only federal law designed to help people manage job and family. “With the FAMILY Act, Congress can fulfill the promise of the FMLA and better meet the needs of working families, employers and our economy. It is simply unacceptable that people have to lose a paycheck or their jobs because they have a baby, get seriously ill or have a loved one who needs care. We commend Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLauro for championing a common sense proposal that would change that.”
“The FAMILY Act will ensure that no parent has to choose between a critical day’s pay and caring for a sick child and that men and women have an equal shot at achieving economic security. I applaud Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLauro for their leadership on this issue,” said Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress.
Current Family and Medical Leave law provides unpaid, job-protected leave for serious health related events, but only about half of the workforce qualifies for this unpaid leave, and many more simply cannot afford to take it because it is unpaid. In fact, only 12 percent of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent of workers have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided temporary disability insurance.
The FAMILY Act would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits. This trust would be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each, creating a self-sufficient program that would not add to the federal budget. The expected cost to the average worker would be similar to the expense of a cup of coffee a week. Benefit levels, modeled on existing successful state programs in New Jersey and California, would equal 66 percent of an individual’s typical monthly wages up to a capped monthly amount that would be indexed for inflation. The proposal makes leave available to every individual regardless of the size of their current employer and regardless of whether such individual is currently employed by an employer, self-employed or currently unemployed, as long as the person has sufficient earnings and work history.