-- Two-thirds of workers (66 percent) reported receiving at least some pay while on leave. However, there are significant gaps that hurt middle and lower income families: 54 percent of workers in middle and lower income families (median family income less than $62,500 per year) reported that they did not receive any pay while on leave, compared to just 18 percent of workers in higher income families.
-- Nearly half of workers who needed leave but did not take it (46 percent) said they were unable to afford unpaid leave. Nearly one-fifth (17 percent) were worried they might lose their jobs, despite the FMLA's guarantee of job protection.
-- Women made up 64 percent of those who needed but did not take leave.
Workers of Hispanic background, those who are not white, those with earnings below $35,000 per year and unmarried workers were more likely than their non-Hispanic, white, wealthier and married counterparts to need leave but not take it.
-- 90 percent of worksites covered by the FMLA reported that compliance with the FMLA has had a "positive effect" or "no noticeable effect" on "employee productivity, absenteeism, career advancement and morale, as well as the business' profitability." More than one-third (37 percent) reported a positive effect.
The FMLA applies only to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius and people who have worked at their current employer for at least one year and 1,250 hours within the past year. The definition of "family" under the law is narrow; FMLA leave is not available to caregivers of parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, domestic partners or same-sex spouses. The FMLA does not provide leave for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault of stalking. And it does not provide any wages during periods of leave.
"This new study from the Department of Labor makes a compelling case to expand the law and adopt a paid leave plan," Ness added. In particular:
-- This study confirms that Congress should revisit the FMLA's employer-size and employee eligibility requirements. The Department of
Labor study estimates that two-thirds of workers (67 percent) would be covered by the FMLA if the law applied to worksites with 20 or more employees. Sixty-three percent of workers would be eligible if employees were required to work 780 hours in the previous year instead of the 1,250 hours, as required now.
-- Congress should consider a national paid family and medical leave insurance program. The Department of Labor's survey results show the hardships workers face when they cannot afford leave without pay, take a shortened leave, or jeopardize their families' financial stability while on leave. Economic security policies, including paid family and medical leave insurance, have overwhelming voter support, according to polling commissioned by the National Partnership. And states have model paid leave programs that are working well. Creating a national paid leave insurance program would ease burdens for both employees who need paid leave and employers who cannot afford the full cost of offering paid leave to their workers.
Paid family leave programs are working well in California and New Jersey, but such a program has not been adopted at the federal level.
The National Partnership will host a congressional reception with current and retired lawmakers who are champions of family leave today, Monday, at 5:00pm in the Capitol Visitor Center.
The National Partnership for Women & Families, based in Washington, D.C., drafted and led the fight to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act. The organization promotes fairness in the workplace, access to quality affordable health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.
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