ISSUE SPOTLIGHT: Paid Leave Legislation
In recent months, the issue of paid family leave has gotten a boost from the President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who has been meeting with Members of Congress in support of paid maternity leave. While campaigning, then-candidate Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential nominee to offer a proposal for six weeks of paid maternity leave to biological mothers.
Here’s a look at the current law, as well as what’s been proposed by President Trump and lawmakers in Congress and in state legislatures across the country.
The United States is the only country among 41 nations without a federal paid leave policy for new parents, according to Pew Research Center.
The only federal work-family policy is the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), which was enacted in 1993. FMLA provides certain employees with up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year for a serious illness, to care for a seriously ill family member or for the birth or adoption of a child. It was expanded in 2009 to include new military family leave benefits. Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
Trump’s Proposal for Paid Leave
Then presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a child care plan which included six weeks of paid leave for new mothers:
“The Trump plan will guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave by amending the existing unemployment insurance (UI) that companies are required to carry. The benefit would apply only when employers don't offer paid maternity leave, and would be paid for by offsetting reductions in the program so that taxes are not raised. This enhancement will triple the average paid leave received by new mothers.”
The funding for paid maternity leave, which would cost $2.5 billion annually at an average benefit of $300 per week, “could be offset through changes in the existing UI system.” This plan would reduce the $5.6 billion per year in improper payments or by implementing the proposals included in the administration’s FY 2017 budget regarding program integrity.
However, critics have expressed concern that a maternity leave-only policy would lead to employer discrimination against women workers, as well as discrimination against fathers and adoptive mothers.
Proposals in Congress
While the FMLA is the only federal law on the books “designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities,” there are several proposals in Congress to expand options to take time off. Weigh in on these bills on POPVOX and share with your friends and networks:
FAMILY ACT (S. 337 and H.R. 947) from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY] and Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D, CT-3] “would create a self-sustaining family insurance program for all workers – young and elderly, single and married, and men and women, regardless of the size of their employer,” according to the bill sponsor. The bill is modeled after state paid leave programs and would provide up to 66 percent wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency.
Strong Families Act (S. 344) from Sen. Deb Fischer [R, NE] “would create a tax credit to incentivize businesses to offer at least two weeks of paid family leave per year,” according to the bill sponsors. The leave would be separate from other vacation or sick leave, and workers could take it on an hourly basis. Employers would receive a nonrefundable tax credit equal to 25 percent of what they pay employees during their leave.
Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 1180) from Rep. Martha Roby [R, AL-2] is known as the “comp-time bill,” it would allow private-sector workers to receive paid time off, or comp time, for overtime hours worked. “A working mom or dad could use an hour of overtime he or she earned as paid ‘time and a half’ off work instead of ‘time and a half’ cash, if that’s what they would rather have,” explained the bill sponsor.
Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (S. 362 and H.R. 1022) from Sen. Brian Schatz [D, HI] and Rep. Carolyn Maloney [D, NY-12] would provide federal employees six weeks of paid leave following the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, according to the bill sponsors. Currently, federal employees are entitled to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid Family and Medical Leave.
Proposals at the State Level
Five states and the District of Columbia have paid family and/or medical leave laws in effect or expected to go into effect. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island all have programs in place, while New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia have passed laws that will go into effect in the coming years.
Taking their lead, several other states have proposed creating paid leave insurance programs that provide income replacement to eligible workers for family caregiving or bonding with a new child. Weigh in on POPVOX, and we’ll deliver your message to your state lawmakers:
Would allow employees to start contributing a portion of their paycheck to a Family and Medical Leave Compensation Trust Fund in 2019 and to start using the system by July 1, 2020. The amount of money an employee on leave could receive would be capped at $1,000 per week, according to news sources.
Would provide Minnesotans with up to 12 weeks of partial wage replacement during pregnancy and medical leave and 12 weeks of family leave, defined as bonding with a new child or caring for a seriously-ill family member, according to the bill sponsors. Workers would receive between 80 and 55 percent of their wages, based on income, up to $1,000 per week. Program costs would be minimal and shared equally by employers and employees. The median worker and his/her employer would each contribute $1.75 per week.
Montana: H.B. 392
Would create a fund to give workers paid family or medical leave from their jobs. The fund would be made up of contributions split equally between the employee and employer. Or, the employer could opt to pay the entire amount. The combined amount would be no more than one percent of the employee’s monthly wages. To receive the benefits, a worker must either have a serious health condition, or be caring for either a new child or family member with a serious health condition. It also applies if you’re caring for a covered servicemember who lists you as next of kin, according to news reports.
Would create an insurance program making workers workers eligible for paid leave to recover from a serious illness or injury, care for a sick or injured family member or care for a new child. The maximum weekly benefit is set at $650 under H. 2172 and $1,000 in S. 1048. Both bills call for the leave to be financed at least in part by employer contributions and allow employers to require that workers contribute up to 50 percent of the premium cost, according to news sources.
Wisconsin: (number pending)
Creates a Family Medical Leave Insurance program completely paid for by employees. Under the program a participating employee is eligible to receive a percentage of their pay during the time they take family or medical leave from work. The program would not cost employers any money. Employees pay for the benefit by contributing a certain percentage of their check into a trust fund. The percentage was to be determined by Department of Workforce Development in consultation with Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, according to bill sponsors, State Senator Janis Ringhand and Representative Sondy Pope.
Virginia: H.B. 2126
Entitles individuals to a family and medical leave insurance (FMLI) benefit payment for each month they are engaged in qualified caregiving, not to exceed 60 qualified caregiving days per year. Benefits would amount to 66 percent of an individual's monthly wages, based on highest annual earnings from the prior three years, up to a capped monthly amount, according to the bill summary.
Nebraska: L.B. 305
Would provide paid family and medical leave for Nebraska employees who are currently covered by unemployment insurance. Qualifying employees would be required to pay into the program, at a cost of less than $2 per week. The program would provide workers with about two-thirds of their regular pay for up to 12 weeks leave for their own health or the birth or adoption of a child and up to six weeks leave for the care of a family member, according to news sources.
Oklahoma: S.B. 143
Would establish a family temporary disability insurance program to provide up to six (6) weeks of wage replacement benefits to workers who take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or domestic partner, or to bond with a minor child within one year of the birth or placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption. An individual shall be eligible to receive family temporary disability insurance benefits equal to sixty-five percent (65%) of his or her weekly wage amount for each full day during which he or she is unable to work due to caring for a seriously ill or injured family member or bonding with a minor child within one year of the birth or placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption.
Please keep in mind that highlighting specific legislation does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.