In 1993 Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This important legislation requires certain employers to provide their employees with unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition, without losing job security or health benefits.
Unfortunately, less than 60% of American workers qualify for protection under the FMLA. Although FMLA maintains job security, it is unpaid leave and few employees can go three months without a paycheck, leaving them to choose between caring for a loved one and their livelihood.
As part of the Build Back Better legislation, Congress is debating whether to include universal paid family and medical leave for all workers in the U.S. Workers would be covered either through this new program or an existing qualified employer or state paid leave program. The proposal would replace between 55% and 85% of weekly earnings based on salary level.
This proposal is particularly important for women who carry most of the responsibility for caregiving. Sixty-six percent of caregivers are women, and women spend 50% more time than men taking on responsibility for care.
Despite being the richest nation, the United States is one of only eight countries in the world that does not guarantee paid family and medical leave. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance supports universal paid family leave, as do more than thirty national health organizations who are part of the paid family medical leave coalition.
Paid family medical leave is not only the ethical and moral thing to do but it also makes good business sense. Multiple studies have demonstrated that cancer patients and their caregivers who have paid family leave have high job retention and decreased financial burden. The current job market makes clear that employers face challenges in finding qualified and trained staff. Paid family medical leave ensures they do not lose good employees due to family medical circumstances.
What will finally be included in the Build Back Better Act, and whether it will pass, is anybody’s guess. Progressives and moderates in the Democratic party are at odds with what to include, and Republicans are opposed to all of it.
If you believe that all employees should be paid during a short period so that they can take care of a family member with a serious health problem, please call or email your Representative and Senators and let them know you support paid family medical leave. To find your Congressional members, visit https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.
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