AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act — and highlights efforts to increase access to paid leave.

The federal law requires some employers to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to certain workers.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health philanthropy, wants to change that — it is pushing for a universal paid leave act.

“Evidence shows that paid family leave has a huge impact on the health and well-being of people, particularly workers of color, who are less likely to access protections and benefits from their employers compared with higher-wage and white workers,” said Dr. Avenel Joseph with the RWJF.

The group said universal paid leave has both short- and long-term benefits.

“For example, short term paid family leave increases the likelihood that mothers will remain in the labor force after childbirth,” Joseph said. “This is especially critical after the pandemic, which we saw a disastrous results on women’s labor force participation — women who were in the workforce who either had a child or had to take care of a sick family member or elderly person in their family. When they didn’t have paid leave, they just left the workforce all together.”

Joseph said the long-term benefit of paid leave also strengthens the economy.

“We know that on a national level based on research that with access to more paid leave, and affordable childcare, as many as 5 million more workers would enter the US labor force, boosting the economy as a whole. If they had access to paid leave, workers would be more likely to stay in their job, they’d be more likely to work longer hours, and they’d be more likely to remain in the workforce. And this is all based on a number of different surveys and research that’s been done on this topic over the last decade.”

Joseph said there’s been bipartisan support for a federal paid leave program in the past — and last week six members of Congress announced a working group “to push for this benefit.”