The 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act on February 5 provides an important moment to examine how far our nation has come since President Clinton signed FMLA into law in 1993 and how far we still need to go. First drafted in 1984, FMLA took 9 years of efforts by many organizations, policy makers and activists. In fact, three years before the Federal Government passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Connecticut passed a state FMLA that is in effect today.
FMLA is the first national legislation that established an employment standard acknowledging that men and women need time to provide care for family members and for a personal illness without jeopardizing their jobs. FMLA has been used more than 100 million times,[i] helping 35 million people keep their jobs and health insurance while they cared for a family health crisis or a new baby.[ii]
But, many workers are not eligible for FMLA. Only about one-fifth of all new mothers are covered by FMLA. To be protected by FMLA, a worker must be employed by a company with 50 or more employees, work at least 1,250 hours per year, and be on the job at the company for at least a year.[iii] Even if an employee is eligible for FMLA, many cannot afford to take unpaid leave. In fact, 78% of eligible workers who needed to take leave and did not, said the reason was that they could not afford to go without wages.[iv]
This year, a diversity of advocates have come together to ask the Connecticut Legislature to pass a bill to create a Task force to study how Connecticut can offer Family & Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI), a partial wage replacement program, to workers when time is needed to care for a loved one or oneself.
Today, on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the historic Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the first federal law that guaranteed Americans protected time to care for loved ones, Connecticut's FMLI Coalition seeks to improve this policy and give families and businesses much needed financial relief. The FMLI Coalition is happy to announce a new website with information on FMLI, legislative updates, and opportunities to get engaged.
[i] Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help New Parents, National Partnership for Women &Families, May 2012
[ii] Family and Medical Leave: Making Time for Family Is Everyone’s Business, Future of Children, May 2011
[iii] Leaves That Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences With Paid Family Leave in California, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Jan 2011
[iv] State Paid Leave Fund: Critical Support for Families and States, National Partnership for Women &Families, Feb 2012