President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan contains a measure calling for a federal leave policy giving 12 weeks paid leave to workers. If this pushes through, it represents one of the largest efforts to expand the US social safety net in decades.
12 Weeks Paid Leave to All Workers
Bien wants the federal leave policy included in the American Families Plan. It’s a $1.8 trillion spending and tax credits plan designed to revive the economy after a COVID-19 infested year. The leave program, projected to cost $225 billion over a decade, will require an increase in taxes for the wealthy.
When signed into law, Biden can guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave for workers within 10 years. According to an outline released by the White House, workers can use extended leaves to spend with family.
During their absence, workers can receive up to $4,000 a month, or at least two-thirds of their weekly wages. Lowest-wage workers would receive 80% of their prior earnings. In addition, the plan gives workers three days’ leave for bereavement for a family member or loved one. Finally, Biden also called on Congress to award workers seven days paid sick leave a year.
Present Leave Laws
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. This provision is a marked contrast to other developed nations that guarantee paid leaves to their workers.
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Valid reasons include welcoming a new child into the family or dealing with an illness in the family. In contrast, progressive countries like Norway give more than a year’s worth of paid leave to workers.
US companies can ill afford these generous leaves. Businesses pay relatively lower taxes and have smaller safety nets. In addition, they dislike government intervention in the labor market.
According to City University of New York professor Ruth Milkman, this is the same reason why the US continues to resist universal health care. While around 80% of American voters support the idea of a national paid leave program, “a government program isn’t the solution,” according to The Heritage Foundation research fellow Rachel Greszler.
Leaves Should Come From Employers, Not The Government
“Most would much rather receive flexible and accommodating policies through their employers than to have to deal with government bureaucrats and the constraints of a one-size-fits-all government program,” Greszler said.
Instead of employer policies, some states enacted their own programs. States such as California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island created measures to compensate workers who take time off.
However, most workers remain at the mercy of their employer’s policy. This is why fewer than one in five can use paid family or parental leave. In addition, less than 50% receive paid medical leave.
For jobs with lower wages, leaves are even rarer. “Too many people have been forced to make an impossible choice between the income they need and the families they love because they have no paid leave,” said Ruth Martin, senior vice president at nonprofit advocacy group MomsRising.
Republicans Not Likely To Support The Plan
While some Republicans offered to support some paid leave policies, the party opposes the raising of taxes to fund the program. This can make passage of the bill difficult in both chambers of Congress. However, Democrats can opt to go via budget reconciliation to bypass the supermajority requirement.
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Watch the ABC News video where President Joe Biden discusses American Families Plan and child care:
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