April 2014, Helene Jorgensen and Eileen Appelbaum
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take job-protected, unpaid leave to bond with a new child, care for a family member or military service member, or for one’s own serious illness for up to 12 weeks in a year. About 60 million private sector employees (55.9 percent) were eligible for family and medical leave under the FMLA in 2012. However, more than two-in-five private sector employees do not have access to job-protected leave because they are employed by small employers, which are exempt from the FMLA, and/or because they do not meet the tenure and hours worked requirements for eligibility. If the FMLA were amended to cover all firms and worksites regardless of size, an estimated 34.1 million private-sector employees would gain access to job-protected family and medical leave, if they otherwise meet the eligibility requirements relating to length of tenure and hours of work.