Washington, D.C. — Paid family and medical leave is critical for the economic security of working families, yet the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee any form of paid leave for workers. Although cities, states, and individual employers throughout the country offer paid family and medical leave policies, millions of workers and their families are left without paid leave when they need to recover from an illness, care for a family member, or welcome a new child—underscoring the need for a national solution.
Unfortunately, as a new issue brief released today by the Center for American Progress demonstrates, some current proposals to address the United States’ lack of guaranteed paid leave, such as business tax credits to incentivize paid leave and 401(k)-type accounts for families to save up for their own parental leave, claim they would help working families but would do little to expand access to paid leave.
CAP’s new issue brief also debunks the most frequent myths about paid family and medical leave and outlines the key features necessary in a national family and medical leave program.
“The United States’ lack of commonsense paid leave policies comes at a high cost for the nation’s economy and for individual workers and their families,” said Sarah Jane Glynn, Director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Unfortunately, many conservative proposals that claim to expand access to paid leave fail to address the needs of all families, leaving many workers— particularly those who need these policies the most—on the sidelines.”
Tax credits for businesses are a common conservative alternative to comprehensive paid family and medical leave, such as the Strong Families Act introduced in Congress by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Angus King (I-ME). While some conservatives claim that tax credits for businesses would ensure that workers have access to the time off they need to take care of their families, these proposals would be voluntary and would fail to guarantee any additional access to paid leave for working families.
Under another conservative alternative, workers would save up to fund their own paid family and medical leave for qualifying events, such as the birth of a child or a family illness, through “Personal Care Accounts.” Also known as a pregnancy 401(k), this proposal falls short of what working families need and is unlikely to expand access for low- and middle-income families.
In 2014, the Center for American Progress and the National Partnership for Women & Families outlined the key features necessary in a national family and medical leave program. A comprehensive paid family and medical leave program must be available to all workers; cover serious family and medical needs; be affordable and cost effective; be inclusive of diverse families; and be accessible to workers without adverse employment consequences.
Two potential options, including a social insurance model and a business-government partnership, would fit the criteria laid out by CAP and the National Partnership for Women & Families and expand paid family and medical leave broadly to ensure that every working family has a fair shot at economic prosperity.
Read the fact sheet: Rhetoric vs. Reality: Paid Family and Medical Leave by Sunny Frothingham and Sarah Jane Glynn
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at [email protected] or 202.478.5328.