As a recent story in the Washington Post reminded us, the last time family leave provisions were expanded in the US was mere weeks after Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1993. The Family and Medical Leave Act provided unpaid leave for certain employees for family and medical reasons. And then, nothing. For 28 years.
As we’ve pointed out often during the pandemic, the US remains the only OECD country without federal paid family and medical leave legislation, leaving employees to the caprice of employers and state laws for any job protection and ability to take time off to care for oneself or one’s family. The FFCRA provided temporary relief, but it has since expired, leaving parents and those caring for families out in the cold again. According to PL+US, strong federal paid leave laws would strengthen the economy while protecting employees from job loss during unexpected events, such as a global pandemic.
So, in early February Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York reintroduced Gillibrand’s legislation, long overdue, to strengthen the false dawn of the Clinton-era FMLA. In addition to Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act, DeLauro, no stranger to putting issues of social reproduction at the forefront, is also pushing for an expansion to the child tax credit.
Under the FAMILY Act’s language, paid leave would provide 66% of a worker’s monthly salary, ranging from a minimum $250 to a maximum of $4,000, to be covered by a small, 0.2% wage tax. Such job protections would go a long way to ensuring workforce stability and reducing unemployment during periods of uncertainty. It would also contribute to protecting expectant and new mothers, who are often unfairly pushed out of the workforce because they need to care for their children.
We will be eagerly following along to see how Congress addresses this critical issue.