25 Years Later, It’s Time for a New Family and Medical Leave Act

February 5 marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers with 50 or more employees to offer those employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off when major life events happen, such as having a child, caring for a loved one, or recovering from a serious illness. 25 years ago when FMLA passed, it was a big step in the right the direction for America’s hardworking families. To date, FMLA has been used more than 200 million times by families. But now, it is time to improve the FMLA so that it provides paid leave for hardworking people who need it.

Fewer Than Half of Virginians Qualify For Unpaid Leave Under FMLA

When life happens, no one should have to worry about getting fired or being unable to pay the rent. But under the current FMLA, only 44.7% of Virginians are eligible for and able to afford the unpaid leave that is available to them. That means when serious family and medical needs inevitably arise, families have to make unthinkable choices between their care needs and their economic stability. No one who works hard for their employers and to raise their family should have to make these difficult choices.

The Need For Caregivers is Growing, But The Number Of Available Caregivers is Declining

The share of the state’s population 65 and older will increase from one in seven in 2015 to nearly one in five by 2030. As they age, more and more of those individuals will face serious medical problems and need round-the-clock medical care. Unfortunately, the number of available family caregivers is expected to decline dramatically in the next few years, as potential caregivers instead join the workforce full-time to meet pressing financial obligations.

It’s Time To Pass PAID Leave So Hardworking Families Have Options

Without paid leave, our families are left making impossible choices. Do they take time off work to take care of mom who needs to be driven to doctor’s appointments and can no longer care for herself and thus face punitive discipline and income loss at work? The choice between financial survival and caring for family members is a very real choice for many families, and it’s time we do something about it.

Twenty-five years after the FMLA, all Virginians—and all people across the country—need the next step: real paid family and medical leave, regardless of profession or employer. A stronger Virginia is one in which people can care for themselves and their families during major life events while keeping their jobs and strengthening businesses and the state’s economy.

To learn more about what the General Assembly is doing to support families in Virginia, sign up for the Richmond Reporter, where the news is for everyone.

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