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Daily Newscasts

Family and Medical Leave Act Turns 20: Time for an Update?

February 6, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - Today is the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Workers have used FMLA tens of millions of times since then to care for a sick family member, recover from an illness or welcome a new child into the home without fear of losing their jobs or benefits.

In the past year, 16 percent of all workers have taken advantage of the law. But after two decades, Vicki Shabo, director of work and family programs at the National Partnership for Women and Families, believes the time has come to update the law.

"Only 60 percent of the workforce is covered, 40 percent is not covered," she said. "So, we need to expand the number of employers who are covered by law, the range of workers who are covered by the law. The definition of 'family' really needs updating, as well."

Congress also should consider a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, she said.

"What we really need to do is complement the Family and Medical Leave Act with a system of paid leave insurance," she said. "so workers can earn some portion of their pay while they're on leave."

A new study from the Labor Department says the law has had a positive impact on workers, families and businesses. It says more than half of employees who have taken leave in the past year were women, and most reported taking the leave for their own illness. Most workers were away from the job ten days or less.

That study is online at

Richard Alan, Public News Service - IA