Gillibrand Announces Legislation for Workers to Receive Paid Family and Medical Leave

Written by Lyndsay McCabe  |  23. January 2014

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced Wednesday the introduction of a bill that, if adopted, will affect all workers by allowing everyone to have paid family and medical leave from work.

The legislation, titled the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, will change the legislation that has been in place since 1993, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for serious health-related events for only about half of the workforce.  The other half of workers do not qualify for unpaid leave, and thus likely do not take the leave because they cannot afford it.

Under the proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, workers would be given about two-thirds of their salaries for up to 12 weeks in the case of a family or medical crisis. 

To sustain this plan, an independent trust fund would be created within the Social Security Administration in order to collect fees and provide benefits. According to Gillibrand, the trust will be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2% of wages each, which for the average worker would be about the cost of buying a cup of coffee each week.  Through the regular low contributions, this trust would create a self-sustaining program that would not add to the federal budget.

“When a young parent needs time to care for a newborn child – it should never come down to an outdated policy that lets her boss decide how long it will take – and decide the fate of her career and her future along with it,” said Senator Gillibrand in a recent press release.  “When any one of us – man or woman – needs time to care for a dying parent – we should not have to sacrifice our job and risk our future to do the right thing for our family. Choosing between your loved ones and your career and your future is a choice no one should have to make

Only 12% of workers in the United States currently have access to paid family leave through their employers.  Less than 40% of workers are allowed to take paid leave time for a medical emergency through employer-provided temporary disability insurance.

According to the press release, the Family and Medical Insurance Act would cover any individual, “regardless of the size of their current employer and regardless of whether such individual is currently employed by an employer, self-employed or currently unemployed, as long as the person has sufficient earnings and work history.”

Programs similar to the one proposed by Gillibrand have already been enacted in New Jersey and California.

[Source: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand]

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