Monday, June 27

Americans could finally get paid family leave

Washington (CNN) — President Joe Biden is pushing for the creation of a national rule on paid sick and family leave, which already exists in most other developed countries.

Creating a federal benefit that allows new parents, as well as workers recovering from illness or caring for sick family members, to take paid leave from work has long been a priority for many Democrats.

Biden originally proposed guaranteeing 12 weeks of paid leave, but the plan has been shortened to four weeks as negotiations on a comprehensive social security bill drag on. This could reduce the cost of the provision to about $ 100 billion, up from nearly $ 500 billion in the original proposal.

Democratic leaders are struggling to keep the paid leave allowance in the package, while also trying to win the vote of a key moderate, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has raised concerns about the provision.

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The 10-year spending plan, originally priced at US $ 3.5 trillion, plans to expand education, health care and aid for children, as well as address the climate crisis and make more investments in infrastructure. Democrats are on the verge of reaching an agreement, although the size and scope of what Biden originally proposed is likely to be reduced.

America lags behind

Currently, the United States does not have any federal sickness or family leave benefits, making it an outlier among developed countries.

It is the only nation that does not offer some kind of paid leave to new mothers among the 38 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Policies vary between countries in that group, but the average is 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. In Germany, which has one of the most generous benefits, mothers receive their full salary for 14 weeks and then another 44 weeks of partial salary.

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Most of these countries also offer some form of paid parental leave, as well as sick leave benefits.

Millions of Americans have no paid leave

The federal government created a national policy on unpaid family and sick leave in 1993 through the Family and Medical Leave Act. This law allows workers to take 12 weeks of vacation without losing their job to recover from a serious illness or to care for newborns or family members with serious health problems, but it does not guarantee any remuneration.

It also has many exclusions, as it leaves out many of those who work for small businesses, some who work part-time, and workers who have not been with your company for at least a year.

In the absence of a federal mandate, many private companies as well as six states and the city of Washington offer paid sick and family leave. Three other states have passed laws to establish these benefits and plan to start paying them in the next few years.

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Still, millions of Americans are left without this benefit. About 77% of workers They do not have paid family leave and 22% do not have paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Low-income workers are less likely to get paid leave.

In recent years, there has been some bipartisan support for paid leave benefits at the federal level. In 2019, Congress voted to provide all federal workers with 12 weeks of paid parental leave, a policy endorsed by Ivanka Trump, the daughter of former President Donald Trump, who served as one of his top advisers.

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Congress also provided a temporary family and sick leave benefit last year to help workers overcome the pandemic if they contracted COVID-19, were caring for family members who became ill or lost child care. when schools suddenly closed.

How could a federal benefit work?

A proposal put forward by House Democrats would allow workers whose employers no longer offer paid family or medical leave to apply directly to the Treasury Department when they need it.

Among the people who could qualify for this benefit are parents who take in new children by birth, adoption or foster care and workers who recover from serious illnesses or who take care of seriously ill family members. They would receive a partial pay, the percentage of which would be based on a sliding scale, so that workers with the lowest income would receive 85% of their normal salary and those who earn the most 5%, leaving out those who earn more than US $ 250,000 year.

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The federal government would pay benefits and partially reimburse employers who already offer paid sick and family leave.

Even if the proposal is shortened to four weeks instead of 12, policy experts say it could still have a significant impact on many Americans.

“One in five workers doesn’t have a single sick day. It would be a real game changer for them to have a month,” said Kathleen Romig, senior political analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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