Durbin Announces Legislation To Expand Family Leave Protections

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today held a news conference to announce legislation that would bring the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into the 21st Century. The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act will guarantee small necessities leave and make important updates to the definition of family to ensure a broader range of caregiving relationships are covered by FMLA’s protections.

Approximately 40 percent of today’s workforce is not eligible for leave under FMLA.  In 2015, more than 25 percent of family caregivers provided care to a family member who was not covered by FMLA, including grandparents, siblings, and adult children.  Thirty-four percent of family caregivers who left the workforce reported doing so because their work did not allow flexible hours.  

“The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 has allowed millions of eligible American workers to take unpaid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, their own serious medical condition, or a family member who is seriously ill. While this landmark legislation was an important first step in better protecting families’ economic security, it must be updated to better address the needs of today’s workforce,” said Durbin. “The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act would ensure that all employees have the same rights to care for a family member in a time of need.  No one should have to choose between caring for a loved one or losing their job.”

The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act would:

  • Update the FMLA’s definition of family to include a domestic partner, parent-in-law, aunt, uncle, sibling, adult child, grandparent, grandchild, son- or daughter-in-law, and other significant relationships; and
  • Guarantee that parents and other family caregivers have the ability to take time off to attend a medical appointment or school function, such as a parent-teacher conference, without risk of losing their job.

Family caregiving needs have changed dramatically in recent years and are expected to increase in the coming years.  By 2035, adults over the age of 65 are projected to outnumber children in the United States for the first time in history.  Already, 7.8 million children live in households led by a grandparent or other relative.  As family structures change and caregiving needs increase, so should the laws designed to help these families.

Roughly 40 million family members, partners, or friends provide care to adults in the United States, including 24 million family caregivers who work.  Many caregivers provide support to both children and an aging family member.  Women compose roughly 60 percent of caregivers, and approximately 55 percent of those women are also employed.  Women who are family caregivers face significant challenges, including loss of retirement savings and lower potential lifetime earnings.  Women caregivers are also 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty.

The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act is a continuation of Durbin’s efforts to address the need to support caregivers.


Introduced in March, the MOMMA Act addresses the earliest caregiver challenges, the burdens that new mothers face in delivering healthy babies.  The bill would expand Medicaid coverage from 60 days postpartum to a full year, expand access to doulas, and address health disparities by improving training for health care providers. 

Supporting America’s Caregivers & Families Act

Introduced in April, the Supporting America’s Caregivers & Families Act increases support through the Older Americans Act (OAA) for unpaid family caregivers who turn to area agencies on aging (AAAs) for help.  The network of AAAs serves 700,000 family caregivers each year through respite care, counseling to address health/financial burdens, and skills building.