Thursday, Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, will introduce new bills, aimed at establishing the United States’ first ever paid family leave to be enforced by law. Presently, American workers are allowed up to 12 protected weeks of unpaid leave after childbirth, adoption or in cases of family medical emergencies, provided they work at a company employing fifty or more workers. However under the newly proposed law, workers would be entitled to collect up to 66% of their regular average earnings with monthly income capped at $1000.
Opponents of the proposed law are expected to label it a “government handout,” however like social security or disability benefits, the program is aimed at aiding workers in funding their own leave with a 0.2 deduction from their weekly pay which is expected to average around $2 a week (or to break it down further, $0.40 a day.) And while the individual contribution may be paltry, the broader savings and economic benefits are considerable.
Presently the typical worker, were they to take the allowed 12 unpaid weeks off from work, would stand to lose an average of $9,316 in that time, which in addition to weighing as a heavy burden upon they and their families, is a considerable sum to take out of local economies. When taken in the broader context of the national economy, where since the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act in 1994, 50 million Americans have taken advantage of such, the costs to consumer spending and individual family finances ranges in the billions.
In terms of benefits to the greater labor economy, it is projected that workers, especially women, who are allotted paid family leave are substantially more likely to return to the workforce and remain with their companies. The same is true for men, among who 85% typically take leave after the birth or adoption of a new child.
Though many are worried about the chances of passing the FAMILY Act in this highly divided and entrenched legislature (which is ironic considered the typically “family oriented” Republican Party presently maintains their majority in the House,) recent polls reveal that paid family leave legislation is supported by a resounding 86% of respondents, with well over half in approval even among self identified Republicans.
With such overwhelming factual evidence as to the benefits of paid family leave and a growing body research on the topic, many are hopeful that the US may soon join the ranks of the rest of the world in supporting working families in these continually challenging economic circumstances.