Is Federal Paid FMLA Any Closer to Reality?

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would create a national system of paid leave for employees. This is the third attempt in the last five years by these same legislators to create federal paid leave. But, with Republicans in control of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government, does the FAMILY Act stand a chance of becoming reality?

The FAMILY Act, which is modeled on existing paid leave systems in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, would provide employees with up to two-thirds of their pay for up to 12 weeks when they take time off for covered reasons under the FMLA. However, unlike the FMLA, the FAMILY Act provisions would extend to covered employees of all employers, regardless of their size. The system would be funded by both employee and employer payroll contributions of two-tenths of 1 percent each, an amount which the National Partnership for Women & Families estimates would be less than $1.50 per week for a typical employee. The Act would create a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave to administer the law.

When the FAMILY Act was introduced by Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLauro in 2013 and 2015, the proposed legislation never made it out of committee. So why should we expect things to be different in 2017, when the Republicans are in complete control in Washington? For starters, President Trump has already indicated that he supports paid leave, albeit only for new mothers. In addition, given the recent proliferation of local and state-enacted paid leave laws, multi-location employers are increasingly challenged by compliance with a wide variety of paid leave programs. As Republicans in the Senate and House continue to hear compliance horror stories from their constituent employers, the adoption of a federal paid leave system may be viewed as a potential solution to this compliance challenge. If President Trump is in need of a bipartisan victory sometime this year, then perhaps the third time will truly be the charm for the FAMILY Act.

More information, including the current status, related to the FAMILY Act legislation proposed in the House and Senate can be obtained through the following links:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/947?r=1

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/337?r=1