AAUW believes that paid family leave could and should be available to every working person. Family leave is of special importance for women, who most often assume caretaking responsibilities. What happens if your child or parent is seriously ill, your spouse is deployed, or you adopt a child? The recent pandemic has placed more focus on essential workers, such as food service, health care, part-time employees, and others, who often do not have access to paid leave for any reason. Without paid leave, employees risk losing their income or their jobs if they must take time off from work. Having a paid leave program, however, could result in lower turnover and fewer employees coming to work sick and contagious.
The United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, is one of the few developed countries that does not offer guaranteed leave. Only 19% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave and 40% to paid medical leave through their employers. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides job-protected unpaid leave, but because there are so many exceptions in the act, only 60% of workers are covered.
AAUW supports pending federal and state legislation on family leave. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (also known as the Family Act) (H.R. 1185/ S.463) would create a national family and medical leave insurance program. It would provide up to sixty workdays or twelve weeks of annual paid leave at 66% of monthly wages and would be portable from state to state. The insurance would be paid for by employers, with employees contributing a small amount.
The proposed Pennsylvania legislation is the Family Care Act (S.B. 580), which would create a state-managed insurance fund to provide paid family leave benefits to working Pennsylvanians who need time off from work due to their own or a family member’s serious illness, to care for a new child, or to care for a family member in the military. All working Pennsylvanians would pay into a fund via a small payroll deduction. They would be eligible for benefits if they work at least 18 weeks and earn a minimum of $2,718 during the 12 months before submitting a claim. They can file for up to 20 weeks of benefits a year.
Eighty-four percent of American voters support a national paid family and medical leave policy that would cover all working people.
AAUW State College joins its fellow Americans in advocating for national and state legislation that would establish family leave for most of the American workforce. We also support other groups that advocate for a more family-friendly America.
Sue Johnston, Public Policy Committee