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Reforming FMLA to Expand Employee Coverage and Reduce Employer Burdens

The Brief
  • Currently, 44% of American employees lack guaranteed access to unpaid, job-protected family and medical leave, with eligibility requirements for the Family and Medical Leave Act excluding many from the law’s protections.
  • At the same time, employers—particularly small business owners—face significant challenges in their effort to provide job-protected leave, either through FMLA or otherwise.
  • Lawmakers and regulators have a wide variety of options to address these shortcomings, with even moderate reform options expanding coverage to tens of millions of Americans and minimizing burdens on the business sector.

Nearly 30 years after its passage, FMLA is due for an update to make it work better for workers and employers. Although paid benefits get much of the attention in current events and are crucial to help families balance work and caregiving, a policy that focuses solely on benefit payments without job protection will continue to leave large swathes of workers behind. As state and federal policymakers consider the future of family and medical leave, it is critical that they pair job protection with paid leave. 

FMLA provides many workers with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected family and medical leave annually. However, the current law poses unnecessary compliance challenges to employers and leaves over 40% of workers ineligible for job protection. To qualify for job-protected leave under FMLA, an employee must work for an employer that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, have worked for their employer for at least one year, and have worked at least 1,250 hours for their employer in the past year. 

Our latest report provides an overview of FMLA, examines coverage data, explores the challenges facing workers and businesses, and considers reform options to modernize the law. The calculator below allows users to calculate how many workers would be eligible for FMLA job-protected leave when adjusting the law’s worker tenure, work hours, and employer size requirements. See our FMLA report for a description of the methodology used to calculate these coverage estimates. 

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FMLA Calculator

Minimum Required Worker Tenure

with Current Employer

Total Work Hours in Past 12 Months

with Current Employer

Employer Size

Current Law
See Results

Percent FMLA Eligible


Workers Covered

In Thousands


Change in Workers Covered

In Thousands

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