Giving Compass' Take:

• Blogging for Urban Institute, Elisabeth Jacobs shares some of her suggestions to modernize family and medical leave policies and better support American workers. 

• What is the generational impact of improved leave policies? Why are some Americans hesitant to support changes to these policies? What can you do to support increased awareness for these workers?

• Learn about the extensive benefits for all involved parties in supporting improved leave policies.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) had important positive effects on families and workers, with minimal evidence of negative consequences for business or economic growth. However, family earnings dynamics, caregiving needs, and the structure of the labor market have evolved in the past quarter-century and demand policies and protections beyond those afforded by the FMLA.

The FMLA provides important protections for families balancing work and care responsibilities, but the most economically vulnerable workers too often are excluded from accessing these rights.

More than 14 million workers took FMLA leaves in 2012, the most recent year for which we have available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, many more workers are unable to take leave for family or medical reasons without risking job loss. The FMLA currently excludes part-time workers, including those who work a full-time schedule split across multiple employers.

Updating the FMLA to protect part-time workers could help millions of families.

The FMLA’s definition of “family” is also limited and as such does not include the most important caregiving relationships for many workers.

Job protection is one of many important elements that Congress ought to consider when designing effective family and medical leave policy. Wage replacement is another.

An increasing number of states have implemented paid leave programs that allow workers to earn paid time off for parental, family, and medical leave. Many of those states have combined those paid leave policies with rights to job protection that go beyond those provided by federal law.

In conclusion, the evidence tells us working families are facing substantial challenges to meeting both their economic and caregiving responsibilities. But research also tells us we have policy solutions available—solutions that work for workers,  families, employers, and the economy as a whole.

Read the full article about improving worker benefits in family and medical leave by Elisabeth Jacobs at Urban Institute.