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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. As state and federal policymakers consider the future of family and medical leave, it is critical that they pair job protection with paid leave. Although a paid benefit is 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.

FMLA provides many workers with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected family and medical leave annually. However, the current law leaves over 40% of workers ineligible for job protection and poses unnecessary compliance challenges to employers. Our latest report provides an overview of FMLA, examines coverage data, explores challenges facing workers and businesses, and considers reform options to modernize the law.

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