Durbin, Maloney Introduce Legislation To Expand Family Leave Protections

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, today introduced 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.  

“While the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 was an important first step in better protecting families’ economic security, it must be updated to better address the needs of today’s workforce,” Durbin said.  “Regardless of the make-up of one’s family, all employees should be given the same rights to care for a sick loved one in a time of need.  As families change, so should the laws designed to help them.  The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act would ensure that all employees have the same rights to care for a family member.” 

“It is unacceptable that some American workers are still forced to choose between caring for their loved ones or losing their jobs. Even with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 40 percent of the work force is still ineligible for FMLA leave – it’s time to bring leave into the 21st century,” said Maloney.  “The FMLA Modernization Act reflects that families – and caregiving – comes in all shapes and sizes. These changes are long overdue.”

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. 

Along with Durbin, the Family Medical Leave Modernization Act is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

“The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been used nearly 280 million times to help working people care for themselves or a loved one.  The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act improves this critical protection by broadening the definition of family and acknowledging modern workers’ diverse care needs and family relationships.  An inclusive family definition is key to ensuring leave is accessible and equitable, particularly for communities of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, workers who are paid lower wages, people with disabilities, and their caregivers.  We thank Senator Durbin and Congresswoman Maloney for introducing this bill, which both strengthens the FMLA and helps create a path toward a paid family and medical leave policy that benefits all workers and families,” said Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families.

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 endorsed by the following organizations: National Partnership for Women & Families, MomsRising, A Better Balance, Jewish Women International, National Council of Jewish Women, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, The Arc, National Women’s Law Center, Women Employed, ZERO TO THREE, 1,000 Days, Women’s Law Project, Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest PA, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Caring Across Generations, North Carolina Justice Center, National WIC Association, TIME’S UP Now, Center for Law and Social Policy, Child Care Aware® of America, Main Street Alliance, YWCA USA, Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Movement Advancement Project, Chicago Foundation for Women, Legal Aid at Work, Family Story, American Association of University Women, Equal Rights Advocates, UnidosUS, the Center for American Progress, Women’s Fund of RI, and ChangeLab Solutions.