Congress Reintroduces Paid Leave Legislation on the FMLA’s 28th Anniversary
On February 5, 2021, Democrats in Congress submitted companion legislation in the House of Representatives and the Senate for a national paid leave program, the Federal and Medical Insurance (FAMILY) Act, that would allow employees to receive up to 66% of their monthly wages when taking leave for health issues, pregnancy, birth or adoption, or to care for a child, parent or spouse. While Congress has put forth similar legislation in the past, legislatures supporting the paid leave legislation are optimistic that it will pass this time now that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for paid leave.
In its current form, the Family Act would provide up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave to all workers, regardless of company size, including self-employed workers. Eligible workers could receive up to 66% of their income subject to a cap. As for who will pay for this benefit, it would be funded through employee and employer payroll contributions and administered through a new “Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave.”
With a new relief bill championed by President Biden that includes extended pandemic leave working its way through Congress, over 230 members legislatures are riding its coattails and looking to have paid leave to become a permanent fixture in the American workplace. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, several states had implemented state family and medical leave insurance programs, including California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Based on these trends, employers are likely to face new mandatory leave laws in the coming months and years and should keep an eye out for state and federal changes.
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