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BPC Analyzes Options to Update FMLA for Workers and Employers

Washington, DC – The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Economic Policy Program released a new report today on the Family and Medical Leave Act, Modernizing FMLA: Reform Options to Expand Employee Coverage and Reduce Employer Burdens. The report estimates the number of workers who would gain the right to job-protected family leave under a range of reforms of the law. The report also reviews options to ease the law’s administrative burdens on employers. 

“Over 40% of workers still do not have the right to take job-protected leave to care for their family or themselves when they most need it. Meanwhile, businesses of all sizes have long struggled to comply with burdensome elements of the law,” said Ben Gitis, associate director of BPC’s Economic Policy Project. “Now is the time for lawmakers to work together to modernize FMLA by expanding coverage among workers and making it easier for businesses to administer.” 

Nearly 30 years after FMLA was passed, creating job-protected leave for a wide swath of American workers for the first time, it’s due for an update. While many state and federal lawmakers have turned their attention to expanding access to paid family and medical leave benefits, job protection is equally essential to making any paid family leave benefit truly accessible to workers.  

The report analyzes several reform options, including: 

  • Increasing the number of eligible workers by reducing or eliminating tenure and hours-worked requirements.  
  • Reducing employer size requirements to provide job protection to those employed by smaller businesses. 
  • Alleviating burdens on employers by updating FMLA’s intermittent leave provisions and offsetting the costs of providing job protection. 

These reforms would increase the number of workers who can take leave to care for a new child or sick family member, recover from a serious health condition, or for qualifying needs related to a family member military service—without worrying about losing their jobs. They would also mitigate unnecessary challenges businesses face when complying with the law.   

This builds on BPC’s previous family leave work, including analyses of state-level FMLA expansions and paid family leave laws 

Read the full report here 

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