Today, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are introducing the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act). The FAMILY Act would provide workers with partial wage replacement for up to 12 weeks for a serious illness; the serious illness of a child, parent, or spouse; the birth or adoption of a child; the injury of a family member who is in the military; or for time off surrounding a family member’s deployment. The FAMILY Act is self-funded through employer and employee payroll tax contributions.

Here are the top 5 reasons why this is a very big deal:

  1. Everyone needs paid time off, but few have it. Nearly all workers need to take time away from work at some point to deal with a serious personal or family illness or to care for a new child. Yet, only 12 percent of workers in the U.S. have paid family leave through their employers and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. The FAMILY Act would create a national paid family and medical insurance leave program, and cover all workers in all companies. This means people could take necessary time off without worrying about making ends meet.
  2. The workplace is changing—and moms are in it. Women make up almost half of the U.S. workforce today. Four in 10 American households with children under age 18 now include a mother who is the sole or primary breadwinner. This number has quadrupled since 1960 and includes 8.6 million single mothers. While women are moving up in the workforce, studies show that they are still primarily responsible for family caregiving responsibilities. Women (and men) need income replacement when they take time out to care for families. The FAMILY Act supports women and their families by shoring up families’ economic security—especially for single-parent families—when it is needed most.
  3. Paid leave supports healthy workers & families. With a paid leave program, more workers will be able to take care of themselves when they are sick; receive necessary, critical care; and take time to recover. What’s more, parents will be able to take more time to care for their newborn babies. This means that newborns are more likely to be breastfed, which brings cost savings and health benefits for mother and baby.
  4. The FAMILY Act is good for employers, too. Paid leave means workers are less likely to quit for family or medical reasons and so reduces worker replacement costs, which can cost employers one-fifth of an employee’s salary. Additionally, turnover declines when workers are able to afford to take time off to care for a new child or address a personal or family illness.
  5. We have laid the groundwork, and paid leave is the next step. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is tremendously successful, and provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for personal and family serious health events. Over the last 20 years, America’s workers have used the FMLA more than 100 million times to take time off work when they need it most. Employers have also found FMLA success, with 91 percent of employers reporting that complying with the FMLA has had either a positive effect or no noticeable effect on employee absenteeism, turnover, and morale. The FAMILY Act would cover more employees and support the nearly half of those that do qualify for FMLA, but cannot afford to take it. States are also stepping up—California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have created insurance programs that provide paid leave to workers, paving the way for a national program.

The FAMILY Act would make sure that our families have the support they need to take care of themselves and their loved ones. This commonsense solution is a win-win—the FAMILY Act would strengthen the workforce, families, businesses, and our economy.