The State of Paid Leave

It has been encouraging to see politicians on both sides of the aisle signal their support for a national paid parental leave plan in the days since President Trump’s State of the Union address. With any legislation, however, the devil is in the details—and the plan proposed by the administration to date is devilish indeed.

(NJ Time to Care Coalition / Facebook)

The plan proposed by the Trump administration thus far addresses leave only for parents of a new child, excluding the 75 percent of leave-takers who need time to care for their own serious illness or that of a loved one. It relies on funding through state unemployment insurance funds and offers amounts that are too small for most families, a formula that would result in cuts to those who get laid off.

The U.S. is an outlier when it comes to paid leave. As we work to catch up with the rest of the world, it’s important to ensure a decent floor that meets the “Triple A” test: accessible, affordable and adequate for all workers.

We need paid family and medical leave that values all care and every family, with a fair and sustainable funding method. We need solutions that eliminate, not exacerbate, existing disparities by income, race and gender.

Fortunately, we know what that looks like: the FAMILY Act, which will deliver a workable model and soon be proposed in the new session of Congress.

The FAMILY Act follows the lead of the states which have already successfully implemented paid leave programs that work for employees and business owners alike. It rests on a sustainable and cost-effective funding base—a social insurance model that pools small contributions from employees and employers so that workers can afford the time they need to heal or care for a loved one.

This week marks the 26th anniversary of the first and only family leave legislation in the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While a great first step, it leaves out 40 percent of the workforce; millions more who are covered by cannot afford the time, because it is unpaid.

We look forward to working with political leaders from both parties to pass the FAMILY Act. And as we work for meaningful paid leave, we will continue to call on this administration to stop hurting women and their families, who have been devastated by a host of this administration’s policies: the massive separation of families and daily terror and uncertainty for immigrant families, the attacks on women’s access to contraceptives and safe abortions, the tax cut that is adding to already grotesque inequities, the continuing assault on the social safety net and the onslaught against democracy.

WATCH: Family Values @ Work’s State of Paid Leave Address

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About and

Ellen Bravo is strategic consultant to Family Values @ Work, a network of 27 state coalitions working for paid sick and safe days, family and medical leave insurance and other policies that value families at work.
Wendy Chun-Hoon serves the director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. She is the former executive director of Family Values @ Work, a network of coalitions in 27 states working for policies like paid family and medical leave.