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News from Ford

26 February 2013

Meeting the Needs of Today’s Families

Meeting the Needs of Today’s Families

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—the federal law requiring employers to provide employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a sick spouse, parent or child, or to attend to their own health issues. Today, grantees of our Ensuring Good Jobs and Access to Services initiative are at the forefront of efforts to expand the availability of paid sick days and paid family leave for all workers.

In an op-ed for The Hill, former representative Patricia Schroeder and Ellen Bravo, executive director of our grantee Family Values @ Work, noted the positive changes FMLA helped bring about and also considered some of its limitations—notably the millions of workers who aren’t protected by it or cannot afford to take unpaid leave. “This issue is about family values, but it’s also about family economics,” they wrote. “We can no longer afford to be a nation where workers put off needed surgery or disregard doctors’ orders because they have to pay their bills, and where a quarter of poverty spells directly follow the birth of a new baby.”

Another key grantee working to expand the availability of paid sick days and family leave for all workers is the National Partnership for Women and Families. In a recent New York Times article, Vicki Shabo, the organization’s director of work and family programs, explained the need for public policies that provide a basic level of protection. “It shouldn’t matter where you live or who you work for,” she said. “All that matters is that you should have time to take care of your children without worrying about facing major financial turmoil.”

Speaking at a Department of Labor an event marking the anniversary of FMLA, former President Bill Clinton reflected on its importance two decades after he signed it into law. “People desperately want to have successful families, to be good parents, and to have a job and succeed in it,” he said. “If you take one away to get the other, the country pays a grievous price. And every life is diminished.”

Learn more about what the foundation is doing to help working families, and read related coverage from The Baltimore Sun, NPR and The New York Times' Economix blog.

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