By Emanuel Cleaver
We are marking a very important anniversary. This year is the 20th anniversary of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act. It was signed into law on Feb. 5 in 1993.
This legislation is all about family. And I think Missouri workers need public policies that support them in spending time with and taking care of their families. I also believe they should be able to do this without worrying about the security of their job or the fear of jeopardizing economic stability at home.
FMLA has been used more than 100 million times in the last 20 years, by workers who take unpaid leave to care for loved ones in need. Whether it is celebrating the birth or adoption of a child, assisting with the upbringing of grandchildren, caring for parents, partners or spouses, or dealing with illness, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to know their jobs will still be there when they return. It allows us to manage the demands of work, home, and family.
FMLA requires employers, with 50 or more employees, to allow those who are working for them, to have up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave each year.
In the last two decades, this has meant many things:
* millions of mothers and fathers have been granted time to take care of infants
*pregnant women are given time to take care of themselves
*adult children can take time to care for sick parents
I am certain we all know someone who has benefitted from FMLA. One of my staffers, who recently returned from leave after the birth of their first child, told me he felt the time was invaluable.
As we move forward, I believe it is time to strengthen FMLA by providing more protection to more of the workforce. We should also expand access to paid, as well as unpaid, leave.
Almost half of all workers in this country are women. And 40 percent of working women are the primary breadwinners in their families. We need to recognize this and formulate policy that best serves and protects them.
Helping parents better balance the responsibilities at home – and at work – makes for stronger families, a stronger economy and a stronger country – for all of us.
Rep. Cleaver’s Fifth District includes Ray County.