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Family Leave Turns 21, Now It’s Time for Paid Sick Leave

Photo via National Partnership for Women and Families

Since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect Aug. 5, 1993, the groundbreaking law has been used 100 million times and has helped 36 million workers keep their health insurance and jobs while taking care of a newborn child, themselves or a family member during a serious illness.

First introduced in Congress in 1984, it took nearly 10 years to overcome a well-funded campaign against the legislation by corporations and two successful vetoes by President George H.W. Bush before President Bill Clinton signed it into law.

The FMLA’s unpaid leave with job protections was a good first step. But today, there are millions of workers who can’t afford to take time off for their own or a loved one’s illnesses. Forty percent all private-sector workers don’t have any paid sick days and that doubles to 80% for low-wage workers.

That’s why there is a growing move across the nation, from Congress to statehouses to city halls, to pass paid family leave–sick days legislation.

Just last week, city councils in San Diego and Eugene, Ore., passed paid sick days measures. Overall nine cities and the state of Connecticut now have paid sick leave laws, and efforts are underway in a number of other cities and states. It was a major topic of conversation at the recent White House Summit on Working Families.

On the federal level last year, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Healthy Families Act, which would give workers the opportunity to earn paid sick leave they could use for personal illnesses or to take care of sick family members, among other uses.       

Find out more about paid sick leave efforts from Family Values at Work.

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