Thursday, March 14, 2019

Share or Retweet if you care about paid parental leave

Earlier this week, Republican Senators Joni Ernst and Mike Lee introduced the Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment Act (the CRADLE Act). It is a first step towards providing some measure of paid parental leave to American workers. Yet, it has some serious flaws.

The Cradle Act would provide up to three months of consecutive paid parental leave benefits to news moms and dads following the birth or legal adoption of a child. It not only applies biological parents and those that legally adopt children, but also those that intend to maintain the same abode as the child for more than six months of the year following the birth or adoption. Further, its coverage is much broader than the FMLA, applying to any employee that meets certain minimum Social Security contribution requirements.

How are the benefits paid? The Cradle Act would allow workers access some of their Social Security retirement income during the parental leave. For each month that workers access these benefits on the front end, they delay their Social Security eligibility by twice as many months on the back end. In other words, an employee who takes their full entitlement of three months of Cradle Act benefits would delay their later eligibility for Social Security benefits by six months.

In discussing this bill, Senator Lee said the following:

Working families are the heart and soul of our nation. If young people can't afford to marry and start a family, then the American dream literally has no future. Unfortunately, the cost of family formation and child-rearing today is higher than ever.…

But in today's economy of working moms and dual-earner couples, we also need updated social insurance programs that support workers at different times of their lives, rather than just starting at retirement. The Cradle Act is a step in that direction.

He's 100% correct. Yet, the Cradle Act has some serious flaws:

  1. It will stress our already at-risk Social Security system

  2. It will require employees to delay retirement and work longer.

  3. It offers no job protections for those that take leave. The Cradle Act's coverage is significantly broader than the FMLA, yet provides no restoration or re-employment guarantees for employees not otherwise protected by the FMLA. Thus, an employee could take Cradle Act leave, yet lose their job. 

  4. It provides no protection against retaliation for employees exercising their rights under the Act.

There is no doubt that we need a paid parental leave solution. We are the only industrialized country that does not guarantee paid parental leave to our employees. We should be embarrassed. And while most agree that we need to provide paid parental leave, the rub seems to be how to pay for it. The Cradle Act is not the correct solution. Yet, anything the moves this discussion forward is a debate worth having.

* Photo by Brittany Simuangco on Unsplash