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122 Monthly Lab. Rev. 13 (1999)
Family Leave Coverage in the 1990s

handle is hein.journals/month122 and id is 963 raw text is: Family leave coverage
in the 1990s
Family leave coverage increased after the passage
of the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993;
the increase was sharpest among workers covered by the Act,
suggesting that the law had a positive impact on coverage

his article examines family leave cov-
erage in the 1990s, a period of par-
ticular interest because it includes the
years immediately before and after the passage
of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in
February 1993 and its implementation in August
of that year. The Act was the subject of a good
deal of controversy before its passage, but there
have been few studies of its impact to date.
Research on this topic is particularly important
in the light of recent trends in employment for
women. More than half (52 percent) of women
with children under the age of 1 year were em-
ployed in 1998, compared with just two-fifths 10
years earlier.' Research is also important in the
wake of State and Federal welfare reform ini-
tiatives that emphasize moving women from
welfare to work, because these reforms will in-
creasingly affect women with young children.
The article concludes that family leave cov-
erage increased after the FMLA became law, with
a particularly sharp increase in paternity leave
coverage for men. The increase in coverage was
greatest among those covered by the Act,
suggesting that the law did have a positive impact
on coverage. At the same time, State legislation
regarding family leave is also an important
source of coverage, particularly for workers in
small firms not covered by the FMLA.
The FMLA, which was passed in February 1993,
requires public employers, and private employers
with 50 or more workers, to offer job-protected

family or medical leave of up to 12 weeks to
qualifying employees (those who worked at least
1,250 hours for the employer in the previous
year) who need to be absent from work for rea-
sons that meet the terms of the law (for example,
an employee's own illness (including maternity-
related disability) or the need to care for a
newborn or an ill family member). The law does
not require employers to provide paid leave, but
it does mandate that employers who provide
health insurance coverage continue to do so
during the leave period.
With the exception of the Pregnancy Discri-
mination Act of 1978 (which required firms that
had temporary disability programs to treat preg-
nancy like any other disability), the FMLA was
the first Federal law in the United States to
address family leave. Prior to passage of the Act,
however, a great deal of legislative activity with
regard to family leave took place at the State
level. In 1996, the Commission on Family and
Medical Leave identified a total of 34 States that
had passed some type of family leave legislation
before the 1993 FMLA was enacted. Eleven of
these States had laws that covered State em-
ployees only. The other 23 had laws that covered
both private- and public-sector workers, but with
varying provisions. Only 12 States and the
District of Columbia had laws in place before the
FMLA that required firms to offer job-protected
maternity leave, and the number with laws
requiring job-protected paternity leave was even
lower (10 States and the District of Columbia;
see the appendix for details). Another source of
pre-FMLA family leave coverage was the em-
Monthly Labor Review  October 1999  13

Jane Waldfogel
Jane Waldfogel is an
associate professor of
social work and public
affairs at Columbia
University School of
Social Work, New York,

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