Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said her organization -- 20 years ago known as the Women's Legal Defense Fund -- helped draft the original bill and assemble the coalition that supported the only national law that enables workers to care for themselves and their loved ones without jeopardizing their jobs.
Boston consulting firm Abt Associates prepared a report on the federal legislation for the U.S. Department of Labor that estimated the law in the last two decades was used more than 100 million times -- mostly for an employee's own illness.
Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for FMLA to care for a serious illness to self, spouse, parent or child; new child via birth, adoption or foster care; and military deployment.
Fifty-seven percent of the leave was taken for an employee's own illness, 22 percent took leave for pregnancy or a new child and 19 percent took leave for the illness of a qualifying relative -- spouse, child or parent. Leave for other qualifying reasons, including military reasons, was quite rare at 2 percent, the report said.
Most leave was short with 42 percent of all leave lasting 10 days or less, while 17 percent took leave of fewer than 60 days.
"Many Americans take for granted that working people have access to job-protected, unpaid leave when serious medical needs arise," Ness said in a statement. "However, 40 percent of the workforce is not covered by the FMLA's protections."
Fewer than 10 percent of work sites reported any negative effects on productivity, morale, absenteeism, turnover or profitability, but larger work sites reported more difficulty complying, the report said.