Support paid family and medical leave
As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers are staying home to care for themselves, for children whose schools are closed, and for family members who are ill or at high risk. While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201 in the 116th Congress) provided some workers 10 emergency paid sick days and 12 weeks of emergency paid leave to care for children out of school, the majority of workers were not adequately covered, and paid leave provisions expired at the end of 2020.
The COVID-19 crisis underscores the critical need for all workers to have access to paid family and medical leave. Today, the United States is the only advanced economy that does not offer paid family and medical leave to its workers. No person should have to choose between caring for themselves or a family member and keeping their job and income.
Paid leave provides employees the necessary time to recover after illness or surgery, to take care of an ill family member, or to care for a newborn infant. There are a number of societal benefits that come with providing paid leave. Access to paid leave leads to better health outcomes; new parents who take leave are more likely to return to the workforce; and businesses see a reduction in job turnover, which is good for their bottom lines.
The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provided unpaid leave to many workers. However, restrictions within the law mean that it only covers 60 percent of the workforce. Furthermore, even those who do have access to FMLA protections are guaranteed only unpaid leave. Only 20 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave benefits through their employers.
The FAMILY Act (S. 248/H.R. 804), introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), would provide workers with 12 weeks of partial paid leave to care for themselves or a family member. Workers would be taxed about $2.00 a week, and would be eligible for 66 percent of their pay during leave. All workers would be eligible regardless of the size of their company or their industry.
Maimonides explained the Jewish imperative to diligently care for one’s own health: "Since by keeping the body in health and vigor, one walks in the ways of God-it being impossible during sickness to have any understanding or knowledge of the Creator - it is a person's duty to avoid whatever is injurious to the body and cultivate habits conducive to health and vigor," (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Book of Knowledge, Laws Relating to Moral and Ethical Conduct, Chapter 4:1). Providing paid family and medical leave to workers removes barriers that inhibit them from fulfilling this important end. In addition, our tradition teaches that "one who wittholds an employee's wages is as though they deprived them of their life" (Baba Metzia 112a). Indeed, in the case of paid leave, a worker's pay is directly tied to their wellbeing.
You can email your elected officials through our form above, or you can call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to speak directly with their offices.
For more information on this issue, visit the RAC’s economic justice issue page, or contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Courtney Cooperman.
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