Spotlight: Paid family leave

The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without national paid family and medical leave.

This gaping hole in our social safety net forces Americans to make an impossible choice — between caring for themselves, their families, or their community’s health, and a paycheck. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis. Millions of Americans — including more than two million women — have lost their jobs over the past year, putting an emphasis on how paid leave could have helped.

Since 2013, Kirsten has been the leader in the fight to pass the FAMILY Act, which would allow all workers in our country up to 12 weeks of paid leave for significant medical or life events — from caring for a newborn or newly adopted child to a sick family member.

This Off the Sidelines Spotlight digs into the FAMILY Act — how it works, why we need it, and why it is critical to our economic recovery.

Why do we need paid leave?

  • Americans are fighting to make ends meet — especially in the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession. Yet our country has utterly failed to provide them with the support they need to navigate the demands of their jobs and their families.

Aren’t there existing laws that deal with this? What about the Family and Medical Leave Act?

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), was signed into law in 1993 — and its passage was a huge step forward for advocates of family leave. FMLA afforded certain employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons.

What does the FAMILY Act do? What makes it different?

  • The FAMILY Act is a permanent solution to our caregiving crisis. It ensures every worker — including those who are self-employed or work part-time — has access to 12 weeks of paid leave for every life event. That includes bonding with and caring for a newborn or newly adopted child; caring for a parent, child, spouse or domestic partner with a serious health condition; addressing their own serious health conditions; or navigating specific needs related to active duty military deployment.

So let’s get specific: How would the FAMILY Act make a difference?

  • To start, the FAMILY Act strengthens families’ economic independence. Working families lose around $20 billion a year in wages due to a lack of paid family leave. That’s money paid leave puts back into the economy through taxes and consumer spending.

That all sounds great…but how do you pay for it?

  • Kirsten’s bill makes paid leave an earned benefit, so YOU own it and can take it with you if you change jobs.

How do Americans feel about paid leave?

  • 7 in 10 Americans support a program to guarantee paid leave. And that makes sense: This is something that affects all of us, be it the birth or adoption of a child, caring for an ailing parent, or the serious illness of a loved one.

The Washington Post | Paid family and sick leave could expand for the first time in decades because of the pandemic

Now is our moment to pass the FAMILY Act — it’s how we shore up our economy and provide the caregivers in our families desperately needed support.

Here’s what you can do — right now — to help pass the FAMILY Act:

  1. Tell your members of Congress you want real paid leave.

Off The Sidelines is @SenGillibrand’s movement to help women run for office—and win.