Nearly all workers need to take time away at some point to deal with a serious personal or family illness or to care for a new child. Providing paid family and medical leave helps workers meet these needs without jeopardizing their economic security.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was a momentous piece of federal legislation that secured the right of working Americans to take up to 12 unpaid weeks off of work for the birth of their child, to care for their newborn, to care for a loved one with a serious illness, or to respond to their own serious illness. Its passage represented a consensus that hardworking individuals should not lose their jobs if they become seriously ill, and new mothers should be given time to recover from pregnancy and bond with their new child. However, over 20 years later, our country has fallen behind the rest of the world in paid leave protections. Workers are still not guaranteed any wage replacement while on medical leave, and over 40% of Americans do not qualify for leave under the FMLA at all. The United States remains the only advanced nation in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave for new mothers.

No one should have to choose between a paycheck and their own health or the well-being of their families.”

— Massachusetts State Senator Karen Spilka

For working families who are living paycheck to paycheck, lack of access to paid family leave policies can have dramatic effects. Under the FMLA, those without paid medical leave are 39% more likely to end up on public assistance than those with paid leave. While only 13% of private workers have access to paid time off, 93% of women who make use of paid maternity leave are back at work 9-12 months following birth, and 69% of those who returned from paid time off to the same employer saw no change in pay or hours worked. Ultimately, nearly all workers need to take time away at some point to deal with a serious personal or family illness or to care for a new child. Laws providing paid family and medical leave allow workers to meet these needs without jeopardizing their economic security.

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