All working people should have access to a baseline paid leave benefit, regardless of the size of their employer, the nature of their work or their income level — and this includes self-employed people, sole proprietors and independent contractors. All businesses should be able to offer a baseline paid leave benefit to protect their workforce across size, industry and state.
While six states (California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington) and the District of Columbia have paid family and medical leave policies in place, millions of people still do not have access to paid leave nationwide.
Only a national policy will guarantee that everyone has access to paid leave when they need it.
In addition to creating standard baseline coverage across the country, a national plan would reduce administrative costs and increase efficiencies for multi-state employers and would make paid leave far more affordable for businesses of all sizes to provide.
Working people need comprehensive paid leave as reflected in the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a new child, a critically ill loved one or a serious personal illness or injury.
Parental leave should cover all parents of new children, whether newborn, newly adopted or newly placed in a foster home. Gender-neutral parental leave promotes gender equity at work and at home; it is vital to families' economic security and wellbeing, child and maternal health, and greater workforce attachment and earnings, particularly for women who give birth.
More than 40 million people provide unpaid care to family members, and many working adults are sandwiched between raising children and providing ongoing care to a loved one, such as an aging parent. As the population and workforce continue to age, this demand will grow.
Family caregiving leave is essential to ensure that working adults can support their loved ones in times of medical crisis, including their children in the years following birth.
Personal medical leave ensures that working people can take needed time away from their job to recover from their own serious illness, surgery or injury while staying attached to the workforce and maintaining their economic stability.
And importantly, military caregiving leave ensures that military service members' families have the paid leave they need to meet their unique needs, whether caring for a wounded service member or make preparations for deployment.
A national paid leave program must reflect the diversity of American families and their health and caregiving needs.
People need a meaningful amount of time to care for a new child or address their own or a family member's serious illness or injury. The Family and Medical Leave Act established a standard of up to 12 weeks of leave, and evidence from a range of medical and caregiving needs shows that this is the minimum meaningful length. Data from state paid leave programs show that people only use the leave they truly need.
A paid leave program should also replace a meaningful portion of a worker's usual wages – enough to allow workers at all wage and income levels to take the time they need without jeopardizing their ability to afford basic expenses.
Importantly, companies can expand upon this baseline coverage by providing additional weeks of paid leave, topping up the wage replacement to ensure their workers receive 100 percent of their typical wages while on leave or implementing other supportive programs, such as a transition back to work programs.
A national paid leave plan should be affordable for workers and employers of all sizes, and it should coordinate with existing paid leave benefits offered by employers and state programs.
It should also be responsibly funded without harming other essential programs or threatening working people's retirement security.
A social insurance program is the strongest model that meets all of these criteria, and it is how each of the state paid leave programs successfully function: paid family and medical leave is provided through a central fund that is built up through small contributions from workers, employers or both.
This means that businesses have small, consistent costs rather than needing to cover the higher and more unpredictable cost when an employee needs leave. This is particularly beneficial to small businesses that cannot afford to provide paid leave on their own but want to provide this benefit to recruit and retain the best talent, compete with larger companies and take care of their own workers.
Importantly, this approach also ensures that the majority of employees who do not currently have paid leave through their employers are covered. Workers will gain the security and certainty of knowing what their baseline benefits are and how to access them, regardless of the job that they hold or where they live.
Employees who ask for or use paid family and medical leave should be protected from retaliation or other adverse consequences at work.
Any policy should include anti-retaliation protections to keep leave accessible for all workers, especially those who do not have separate employment security protections and are often most in need of a paid family and medical leave program.
All people should feel that they can take needed paid family and medical leave without fear of discrimination or retaliation from an employer.
Many business supporters of paid leave have specifically endorsed this legislation as a strong, sustainable and significant solution to the paid leave crisis in the United States.
Please visit our resources page for more information about the case for a national paid family and medical leave policy and details about the FAMILY Act.