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A Push for Paid Leave as FMLA Marks 25 Years

In 78 percent of all households with children in Nebraska, both parents have paying jobs. (Myriam-Fotos/Pixabay)
In 78 percent of all households with children in Nebraska, both parents have paying jobs. (Myriam-Fotos/Pixabay)
February 7, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Family and Medical Leave Act marks its 25th anniversary this week, and some advocates say it's an opportunity to reflect on how the legislation could be updated to better serve all families.

Federal law requires that businesses with 50 or more employees allow those who are eligible to take unpaid medical or caregiver leave.

Vicki Shabo, vice president for workplace policies and strategies at the National Partnership for Women and Families, says that means moms and dads often go back to work much sooner after a birth or adoption because they can't afford unpaid time off.

"What paid leave would do is set a baseline, both in terms of policy and the ability to access a portion of your wages when you need to take time away from your job,” Shabo explains. “But it also sets a baseline for culture, and makes leave available and affordable for employers that want their employees to be able to have access to leave, but maybe can't afford it on their own."

During his first State of the Union address last week, President Donald Trump called for a paid family leave policy.

The U.S. is the only developed nation in the world without one.

While current federal law guarantees unpaid leave to some workers, Shabo notes it's inaccessible to 61 percent of Nebraska workers – either because their workplaces aren't covered by the law, or they can't afford to take time off without pay.

Shabo says that's especially tough when both parents have paying jobs – in Nebraska it's 78 percent of all households with children.

"And what that means is there isn't a default person, who's caring for a new child or dealing with a family member's serious health issue," she points out.

In 2002, California became the first state to adopt laws that provide paid family-leave benefits to eligible workers, and a handful of other states have followed.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE