Twenty-Five Years Later: A Briefing on the FMLA and the State of Paid Leave in America

Twenty-five years ago, on February 5th, 1993, the FMLA took the important first step toward transforming our workplaces and our culture by guaranteeing job-protected, unpaid leave for most American workers to care for a sick loved one, bond with a new child, or handle a personal medical condition. But since that time, policymakers have failed to act further, so today the United States lags the rest of the world in access to paid family leave.

In our latest research, we take a look at the state of paid leave in America twenty-five years after the passage of the FMLA. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without some form of guaranteed, legally-protected paid leave. Because of that shortfall, only 15 percent of workers have access to paid family leave, and that drops to a mere four percent among low-wage workers. Paid family and medical leave policies provide workers with financial support that they need to take time off of work to care for a loved one or address their own health issue without risking their economic security.

Workplace policies have not kept pace with the changing nature of work and the shifting demographics of the American workforce. As more women enter the workforce and remain in their jobs longer into their pregnancies and at higher rates after having children, it’s critical to provide family-friendly policies to help workers balance the demands of work and the needs of family. Twenty-five years after the monumental passage of the FMLA, it’s time for the next step: paid family and medical leave. 

Read the full briefing: Twenty-Five Years Later: What’s Next for American Workers After 25 Years of the Family Medical Leave Act?