Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

UCLA: Paid Family Medical Leave in the U.S.: Good for Families, Good for the Economy

Adequate paid family and medical leave in the United States is necessary for the health and economic welfare of individuals and families. Adequate paid leave ensures workers are able to tend to a newborn baby with health benefits for both baby and parents, and the positive health dividends continue for years to come. It allows workers to care for seriously ill family members, aiding their full recovery. It provides workers with chronic illnesses the ability to remain attached to the labor force. It is also in alignment with a strong economy.

Twenty-five years ago this month, the United States (U.S.) passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which guarantees workers up to 12 weeks of leave for family or medical reasons. Yet the time away from work is unpaid and there are many restrictions on who can use FMLA, therefore rendering it unaffordable and/or unavailable for millions of American workers.

Paid Family Medical Leave: Healthier U.S. Families Within Our Reach, a new report by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, provides evidence of the most effective approaches to paid family and medical leave using data from the experiences of states in the U.S. and high-income countries that have paid leave policies in place.

“Having a baby, taking personal sick leave or time off to care for a family member in the United States often comes at an extraordinarily high price,” said Dr. Jody Heymann, founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center (WORLD) and dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “Low or nonexistent wage replacement rates make it difficult or impossible for some workers to take time away from their job. For many workers, taking leave is associated with fear of losing employment and the income that is critical to keeping their family afloat.”

Carried out in conjunction with collaborators at McGill University, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, the report is based on a systematic review of more than 5,500 studies about paid family and medical leave in high-income countries, medical evidence on how paid leave can support health and recovery, and analysis of economic feasibility for families, companies, and governments.

Length of paid family and medical leave, and associated health benefits:

Economic feasibility of paid family and medical leave:

“It is encouraging to see problem solving related to family and medical leave across the aisle in Washington DC, and critical to remember that the length of leave and funding sources for leave need to support all types of families across all income levels,” Dr. Heymann said. “We know what’s needed for successful paid family and medical leave policy. Now is the time to turn that evidence into impact, for the benefit of all Americans.”

The WORLD Policy Analysis Center (WORLD) aims to improve the quantity and quality of comparative data available to policymakers, citizens, civil society, and researchers around the world on policies affecting equity, development, human health, and well-being. Under the leadership of Dr. Jody Heymann, dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, WORLD is committed to making its broad, globally comparative findings publicly accessible to inform and encourage improvements in legal and policy frameworks worldwide, allow nations to learn from the approaches taken in other countries, facilitate studies of the feasibility and effectiveness of laws and policies in critical areas, and support efforts to hold decision-makers accountable.

The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public’s health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 650 students from more than 25 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation, and the world.

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