24 years later, it’s time for the next step beyond the FMLA: paid leave

This past Sunday marked the 24th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  The passage of which now provides most American workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave per year to care for an aging or ill family member, bond with or care for a newborn or adopted child, or address one’s own health issue.

While the FMLA was a landmark piece of legislation in addressing the duel demands of work and family responsibilities, it falls short of providing many working families with the kind of leave they really need:  paid leave.  The United States is the only developed nation without some form of guaranteed paid leave, meaning that for those that do not have access to a paid leave policy through their employer are forced to choose between a paycheck and caring for a loved one.

Innovation Ohio has been a leading force behind the campaign for paid leave in Ohio.  After releasing a report on the state of paid leave and benefits of the policy for women, families, employers, and local communities in May of 2015, we worked with the elected officials in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Summit County to enact Ohio’s first municipal paid parental leave policies and continue to work with local elected leaders across the state to advance the policy at the local level in Ohio. The village of Newburgh Heights, Ohio also made national news by passing the most progressive paid leave policy; providing men and women access to 6 months of 100% paid time off following the birth or adoption of a child.

After this wave of support at the local level, we worked alongside state lawmakers to introduce legislation for a state-wide paid family and medical leave program for the first time in Ohio’s history.  Last year, we brought together these local and state lawmakers, paid leave experts, and family advocates for a Department of Labor #LeadonLeave Roundtable featuring  Labor Secretary Tom Perez where we discussed the growing support for paid leave among workers, businesses, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle and ways that we could move the policy forward at the local and state level.

From the conversations we have with business leaders and elected officials, to new policy wins at the local level, to the continued release of new evidence pointing to the overwhelming benefits of the policy, and to each opportunity we have to lift up this policy among our networks, all of our work on this issue has added to the groundswell that will evenutally lead to the passage of a federal paid leave policy.  Today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D – Conn.) brought our country one step closer to providing the kind of policy working families want, need, and deserve by re-introducing national paid family and medical leave legislation called the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMILY Act).

Only 14% of US workers have access to paid family leave, but there is momentum growing across the country for a national policy. It’s time that we take the next step beyond unpaid leave provided by the FMLA, and bring access to a leave policy that works for all working families by passing a national paid leave policy that is affordable, inclusive,  substantial, comprehensive, and secure. The FAMILY Act checks all of those boxes, and is exactly the kind of policy that we need to provide support to working families struggling to balance responsibilities at home and in the workplace.

 

#PaidLeaveChecklist

Add your voice:  Join paid leave advocates today, February 7th at 2:00 PM for a twitter storm to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the FMLA, and call for a national paid leave policy.  Use #FMLA24 to join the conversation.

Stay engaged:  Sign up for our policy alerts to stay informed and engaged about efforts happening here in Ohio to advance paid leave and other family-friendly legislation.

Get informed:  Learn more about the coalition – convened by the National Partnership for Women & Families – working to advance a national paid leave policy, which Innovation Ohio has been active in from the state-level.