Gillibrand bill revamps family medical leave

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced that she would introduce a bill to create paid family and medical leave. 

The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, rather than forcing people to take unpaid leave to take care of themselves or a family member.

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“When any one of us — man or woman — needs time to care for a dying parent — we should not have to sacrifice our job and risk our future to do the right thing for our family,” Gillibrand said Thursday. “Choosing between your loved ones and your career and your future is a choice no one should have to make.”

The current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), provides unpaid, job-protected leave for serious health related events for only half of the workforce, but many can’t afford to go unpaid. Gillibrand said 12 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent of workers have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided temporary disability insurance.

Her bill would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits. Employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each would fully fund the program — similar to unemployment insurance. It would also make the benefit available to the unemployed, as long as the person has made sufficient contributions to the program through past work history.

Gillibrand said states such as New Jersey and California already have programs that cover about 60 percent of a workers monthly wage.