What it Means to Live in a Country that Does Not Guarantee Paid Family and Medical Leave
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The United States stands alone among developed nations for failing to support families with paid family and medical leave. Slightly more than half of the U.S. workforce is eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the 1993 federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Yet given that about four in 10 Americans are unable to cover an unexpected expense, it is easy to understand how FMLA is lacking. The current U.S. system relies on employers voluntarily offering paid leave, which has resulted in coverage for just 21 percent of the civilian workforce. It should be noted that the highest-wage workers are about seven times more likely to be covered than the lowest-wage workers. Independent of wage or salary, a Better Life Lab survey found that six in 10 people—men and women alike, and even people who have no current caregiving responsibilities—anticipate needing time off work in order to care for another.

Paid family leave and flexible workplaces can prevent family caregivers from being forced to cut back their hours or leave the workforce entirely—a phenomenon the Lab found impacts caregiving men at virtually the same rate as women. Paid leave can also boost gender equity when men take leave and promote economic and racial equity. Paid family and medical leave increases the labor force participation of women, closes gender pay gaps, and benefits businesses.

Read the collection of articles on FML on the Better Life Lab.

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