As news of the Trump administration’s paid parental leave proposal spreads, the National Partnership for Women & Families is releasing a new public service announcement (PSA) that highlights what a national paid leave plan should look like. “Time To Care” challenges viewers to imagine they are prevented from caring for their seriously ill or injured family members, or from getting life-saving treatment of their own. Without a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave plan, the PSA makes clear, that seemingly impossible situation will remain a reality for millions.
“Working people and families across the country know that what we really need is a comprehensive paid family and medical leave plan that is sustainable, affordable and inclusive of all families and the full range of family caregiving and medical needs,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, which commissioned the PSA to challenge limited state and federal paid leave proposals. “We will not settle for phony proposals or half measures that leave millions of us behind and do more harm than good – especially not at the expense of other essential services and programs.”
Yesterday, the Trump administration released a budget proposal that requires states to provide six weeks of paid leave only to new parents for the birth or adoption of a child, paid for through existing unemployment insurance programs and dramatic cuts to public assistance and health care programs. The National Partnership argues that the proposal would exacerbate disparities and create additional challenges for women and working families. According to the National Partnership, it is not the only inadequate federal proposal lawmakers are considering.
The group says the Strong Families Act, which would create tax credits for employers that provide paid leave, and the Working Parents Flexibility Act, which would create tax-free savings accounts for individuals to save for parental leave, would not guarantee any leave and would make income, health and gender inequalities worse. Instead, the National Partnership and hundreds of allies are pushing for the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act to create a comprehensive paid family and medical leave insurance program that applies to all workers and covers a range of health and caregiving needs.
The FAMILY Act is modeled on state paid leave programs – in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and, soon, New York and the District of Columbia. Lawmakers in several other states are considering similar paid leave policies, but proposals that do not provide medical leave are becoming increasingly common. That’s despite the fact that more than 75 percent of people who take unpaid leave each year under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) do so for family caregiving and personal medical reasons – more than half do so for their own serious health issue.
“We hope people across the country will watch this new PSA and see themselves, their families, and the businesses they own and support and recognize not just any paid leave plan will do,” said Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership. “People now agree that we need to fix the nation’s paid leave crisis, thanks to years of advocacy, clear public demand and support from businesses and lawmakers, but the details matter tremendously. The private and public sectors have shown us what works, and we should be building on the lessons learned and best practices – not taking dangerous steps backward.”
Just 14 percent of U.S. workers have paid family leave through their jobs, and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer’s temporary disability insurance program. Nearly half of first-time moms do not take any paid leave for a child’s birth and nearly one-quarter are back at work within two weeks of giving birth. Adults who leave the workforce to care for an aging parent lose close to $304,000 in income and retirement savings. The FMLA guarantees unpaid, job-protected paid family and medical leave, but only 60 percent of the workforce is covered by its protections.
Conversely, the National Partnership points to a growing body of evidence from existing public and private sector policies that demonstrates the benefits of comprehensive policies for workers and families, businesses and the economy. That evidence shows that when people have access to paid family and medical leave, they are more likely to stay in the workforce and have higher incomes over time, and to be less likely to need public assistance or to go into debt. Employers benefit from reduced turnover and improved loyalty, productivity and morale.
The National Partnership convenes the national coalition pushing for the FAMILY Act. The organization’s new PSA and several resources are on the coalition’s website at SupportPaidLeave.org/TimeToCare. More information on the FAMILY Act is available at NationalPartnership.org/theFAMILYAct.