Commentary: WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 5, 2018) - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) marked the 25th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by cosponsoring the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, that would create a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program.
The United States is the only industrialized nation without a national paid leave program, and only 14 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave through their employer. Without a national paid family leave program, the U.S. economy loses almost $21 billion a year, women lose $324,000 and men lose $284,000 in wages and retirement benefits over a lifetime, and American businesses incur an additional 20 percent cost to recruit and retrain new workers replacing others who left because they did not have paid leave.
“New Mexicans should not face the impossible choice of caring for their health and family or keeping their job,” said Sen. Heinrich. “Yet, the reality is that hard working people in New Mexico and across the country have to make this decision if they need medical treatment or if they have to take care of a newborn or sick parent. Meanwhile, the lack of a paid leave program strains employers and the economy. The FAMILY Act will ensure families and businesses have the stability and economic security they need to succeed.”
A new report released by the National Partnership for Women & Families shows that while the FMLA guaranteed the right to take unpaid leave for some workers, unpaid leave is inaccessible for 66 percent of working New Mexicans because they are either ineligible under the FMLA or cannot afford to take unpaid leave.
The FAMILY Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), creates an affordable, self-sustaining program that would provide up to 66 percent wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious health condition, birth or adoption of a child, or family medical emergency. Modeled after successful state efforts, the program would be created through a shared fund that makes paid leave affordable for employers of all sizes and for all workers - young and elderly, single and married, and men and women.
A copy of the bill is available here.