Wednesday, December 18, 2013

FAMILY Act would provide paid leave for employees

Tony Soprano once said, “Family: they’re the only ones you can depend on.” If Congressional Democrats get their wish, American workers will be able to depend on the FAMILY Act to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year for the birth or adoption of a new child, the serious illness of an immediate family member, or a worker’s own medical condition.

Late last week, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced H.R. 3712—the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act of 2013 (aka, the FAMILY Act).

Five years ago, Ohio tried to enact its own paid sick leave law—the Healthy Families Act. At that time, I strongly opposed the OHFA, not because I’m against paid leave for employees, but because it was expensive for employers and would have labeled Ohio as unfriendly to businesses.

Here’s the key difference between the FAMILY Act, and Ohio’s old plan. The paid leave employees would receive under the FAMILY Act does not come out of ordinary payroll. It’s essentially an insurance benefit, paid by a nominal 0.2 percent payroll tax shared equally by the employer and the employee. As a result, employees would be eligible to collect paid-leave insurance benefits equal to 66 percent of their typical monthly wages, with a capped maximum of $1,000 per week for up to 12 weeks per year.

This solution seems like a win-win. The United States remains the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee working mothers paid time off after childbirth. This legislation would bring us up to par with the rest of the civilized world without imposing a significant monetary penalty on employers. I expect partisan lobbying on this bill, which could prevent it from progressing. That would be a shame, since I view the FAMILY Act as a business-friendly approach to solving one of our workplaces’ nagging problems.

[Hat tip: Eric Meyer]