Family Leave

Everyone knows—family comes first. Whether it’s for that newborn you swear already smiles, your elderly mom or your spouse nursing an injury, being there and providing for family isn’t negotiable. And sometimes your most important job is being at home with family.

That’s why the Family and Medical Leave Act, known as FMLA, which allows working people who are eligible to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for family, is an important first step towards a better work/life balance.

What is the FMLA?

Eligible working people can take unpaid leave while their job is protected for specified family and medical reasons and keep health coverage.

The U.S. Department of Labor enforces the FMLA.

Am I Eligible for FMLA Leave?

The FMLA applies to all private-sector employers with 50 or more working people and to all public agencies—state, local and federal.

To be eligible for leave under the act, you must have worked for the same covered employer for a total of 12 months and must also have worked for a total of 1,250 hours or more in the previous 12 months. You also must work at a location in the United States or in any territory or possession of the United States where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.

Who Can Take FMLA Leave?

You may take leave for the birth and care of a newborn; for adoption or foster care of a child; to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition; or for your own serious health condition. If you qualify for FMLA, your employer cannot fire you for taking leave.

The Department of Labor has more information on FMLA if you have further questions.


Why FMLA Isn't Good Enough

While the FMLA is an important step forward, 40% of people are not eligible for FMLA. They either work for an employer with 50 or fewer employees, didn’t work enough hours or simply can’t afford to go without pay for 12 weeks.

Even for two-income families 12 weeks without pay for the birth of a new child or an adoption or caring for a sick family member could make it impossible to pay the bills.

That’s why we support an expanded, paid FMLA for all working people.

What Could Make FMLA Better for Working People?

Congress should build upon the FMLA to expand the number of covered working people, address more family need, and create a paid family and medical leave insurance program.

It should also pass legislation to guarantee working people paid time to get routine medical care, recover from short-term illnesses and care for a sick family member.

Paid sick days makes FMLA practical. Read more about paid sick days

Why Does the United States Lag in Paid Leave Compared to the Rest of the World?

The United States is one of three countries that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave for working women. Having a baby or adopting a child is a part of life for many U.S. families.

Parents should be able to spend time bonding with their child before returning to work and still afford to pay the bills and have job security.

Unfortunately big business interest and corporate lobbyists have halted making paid leave a reality.

But when working people come together as a team, we can can make sure everyone has paid maternity and parental leave so they can put their families first.

Maternity/Paternity Leave

Paid parental leave for parents welcoming a newborn into the family, is something people can negotiate with their employer when they have a union voice. 

The Labor Project for Working Families has resources for shop stewards who are going to bargain family-friendly workplace policies.

Fact Sheets

Family Leave

Family Caregiving

Paid Sick Days

Find the full list of family-friendly bargaining resources from the Labor Project for Working Families



40% of working people lack even one paid sick day. That’s 43 million people. 40% of working people are also not eligible for FMLA.

Did You Know

The United States is the only industrialized country without paid maternity leave.


83% of working people with a union voice on the job have paid sick days.