By Sherkiya Wedgeworth

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FMLA’s 25th anniversary prompts new leave legislation

Twenty-five years ago this month, then President Bill Clinton signed into law a bill that requires certain employers to provide unpaid medical leave to employees, and on its anniversary, new legislation has been introduced that would create a program to make that leave paid.

Before the Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave, women routinely lost their jobs when they took time off for childbirth and often risked their own health by returning to work too soon in order to protect their jobs. The law later expanded to cover caregivers of sick family members.

According to the Department of Labor, “FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.”

Now, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said it’s time for a paid family and medical leave program. He is co-sponsoring the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). It creates a 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.

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 said in a statement. “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.”

The program would be created through a shared fund that makes paid leave affordable for employers of all sizes, according to the statement, which also notes that 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.

Posted on Feb 08, 2018 at 9:01 AM

Reader comments

Fri, Nov 16, 2018 Jag Boston

So (blank from blank), you are saying that you used paid leave (sick/annual) during your absence but don't believe that the money magically appeared in your accounts because it wasn't labeled as "family" leave? Also, just because we might have done something one way in the past does not mean it couldn't be improved going forward. Do you still render your own fat for lanterns and cut ice from lakes in the winter to save in an ice house for refrigeration in the summer?

Fri, Nov 16, 2018 Becca Tx

This is way past due and about time! You can only request a certain amount of donated leave then you are out of lock. Cpac tells you that they don't have a leave pool account. Employers don't take into account that people can get illnesses that doesn't go away but may go into remission then reapear and supervisor who are prior military don't get it.

Mon, Jul 30, 2018

Ridiculous paying for additional leave resulting in bigger deficits and use of taxpayers money Employees are not encouraged to save their sick leave or annual/ vacation time. Employees can borrow leave and focus on repaying. As a former employee I saved and borrowed without having to ask our taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Wed, Jul 25, 2018 Bessie CA

All I have to say is YES FINALLY!!!! LWOP is the only option if you lose your paid leave (LA) or sick (LS) runs out. Then money is deducted from your paycheck, leaving you out of luck if there are complications. And there are ALWAYS complications afterwards!

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
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