Paid Family and Sick Leave in the U.S.

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from KFF


Workplace benefits are an important part of balancing work, family, and medical needs. Benefits such as paid family and medical leave and sick leave can help employees meet their personal and family health care needs, while also fulfilling work responsibilities. Yet, many U.S. employers do not offer paid leave time to their workers.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires eligible employers to provide unpaid family leave. However, unlike nearly all other industrialized nations, the U.S. does not have national standards on paid family or sick leave, despite strong public support. Paid leave has garnered attention among the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, with most expressing support for a national policy, and President Trump has allocated funds for paid family leave in his budget, though the administration has not issued a formal proposal yet. Some efforts at the federal level have begun to gain momentum, including the Healthy Families Act, introduced in the House of Representatives and in the Senate in 2019, which would require most employers to offer workers paid sick leave. The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act took effect in October 2020 and grants federal employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave following the birth or placement of a child.

There have been a number of local and state initiatives to expand access to paid leave in parts of the U.S. Employees not covered by these local laws must rely on voluntary employer policies, which can vary considerably. This is a particularly salient concern for women, who are often the primary caretakers for children and aging parents and also comprise nearly half of the nation’s workforce.

This fact sheet summarizes state and local policies on paid family medical leave and paid and sick leave and presents data from the KFF Employer Health Benefits Surveys on the share of firms that offer workers these benefits.