*Our Demographic here in MensLib tends to* [*skew younger, and unmarried*](https://www.reddit.com/r/MensLib/comments/ae5fbb/menslib_demographic_survey_results/)*. So I wanted to bring some attention on these policies so that as we grow older and one day might choose to start a family, we can be better informed now, so these polices will be in place when that moment comes. This post will largely consider the American system, but please do not limit discussion to the U.S. or your personal experience with other programs below.*
*There’s been a lot of consternation in the U.S. over healthcare policies and it tends to overshadow a lot of other related proposals. Policy-wise, when it comes to child care there’s generally two things progressives look at. First, how to make child care more affordable in the pre-school years through various initiatives and tax credits. Or through* *daycare facilities (private, government or employer sponsored) and private care workers. Second, how to make the process and financials of major life events mesh better with the expectations of work and economic stability – be it the actual birth of a child, or another medical emergency for yourself or a loved one.* *This post considers the latter, and assumes another system for child care after parental leave will take over. This is not the time to advocate for less working hours to stay home, for high enough wages to afford a nanny, for workers to get their share of leisure and wage growth from* *increases in productivity through technology and automation. In an economy that currently expects both parents to work without serious protections for workers and economic stability, and a country where child-rearing is still a heavily gendered responsibly, we must advocate for programs with clear progressive values, positive results and that already show the political will to enact.*
*PFML = Paid Family Medical Leave*
*FMLA (1993) = Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993*
# What is Paid Family Leave and who does it affect?
Sometimes referred to as parental leave, paid family leave is a worker’s benefit provided by employers or the government to allow paid or unpaid time off from work for or a certain duration to parents for the purposes of recovering from child birth, parental bonding, and economic/job security. Paid leave typically provides a reduced wage replacement during this period that is administered by either the government or the employer.
Most people in the U.S. do not have paid family leave. Only 19% of workers in the U.S. have paid family leave to care for a child or a seriously ill loved one. Sometimes parents can be covered by Employer Short-term Disability Policies, but still, only 40% of workers are covered in those cases. Access to paid family leave has only grown 6% over the last 5 years (13%-19%), where the highest wage workers have seen as 12% increase (22%-34%), and low-wage workers have seen a 2% increase (4%-6%).
Nearly two-thirds of full-time employees (63%) who are parents did not take paid parental leave in the US and over three-quarters of women (77%) indicate their spouse/partner is not eligible for paid parental leave. Millennials (48%) are much more likely to take paid parental leave compared with parents of older generations when they had children.
7% of people who filed for bankruptcy cited the birth of a child as the cause. “Sandwich caregivers” are those who are caught between the demands of both childcare and caring for an adult family member. National Alliance for Caregiving cite these caregivers provide 22hrs a week of care and have to cut hours during prime working and long-term saving years. Sandwich caregivers are 19% Baby Boomers, 31% Millennials and 49% Gen X and often lack workplace benefits while juggling care.
# A History of Family Leave in the U.S.
The U.S. is one of a very small number of countries (“one in two”, “only industrialized nation”, “one of three within in U.N.” “only rich country”, “only OECD Country”), that has no guaranteed paid leave of any kind. Often, we don’t think about it as economic security or support and that means people rely on a patchwork of state policies, other family members (and their employee benefits if they have it) vacation/sick time, or taking unpaid leave via 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, but there’s no standard or guarantee that says you deserve, and should have access to, paid family leave no matter where you live, where you work, the type of job you have, or whether you’re caring for a child versus an older facility member dealing with a serious illness.
The U.S. culturally prioritizes work, and fetishizes hard work as the key to social mobility. It is the reason why you see work requirements in a lot of welfare programs [despite them not working.](https://www.cbpp.org/blog/more-evidence-that-work-requirements-dont-work) PFML likewise is designed with workers in mind who will continue working. And unlike some European policies that are pro-natalist that historically (some still do) separated men and women because for gender roles, it’s critical that PFML in recognizes parents regardless of gender will work and will need leave at some point to take care of themselves, a child, or a family member.
Traditionally, the movement for paid leave has largely centered on state and local policies or those voluntarily adopted by employers or negotiated through union contracts.
**The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993**
Prior to 1992, George H. W. Bush vetoed a FMLA twice. When Bill Clinton was elected it became a domestic priority. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, signed into law by Clinton, provided the following measures.
>Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer;
>Public agency, including a local, state, or Federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
>Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.
>Works for a covered employer;
>Has worked for the employer for at least 12 months;
>Has at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12 month period (~24hrs a week) immediately preceding the leave*; and
>Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
This effectively restricted these benefits to 41% of the workforce.
It entitles eligible workers up to 12 workweeks of ***unpaid*** leave in a 12-month period for:
>The birth of a son or daughter or placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care;
>To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition;
>For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job; or
>For any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status.
**Some states picked up where the government left off.**
California was the first state to implement a state program for family leave in 2002 (effective 2004) , New Jersey the second. These two states have served as a model for much of the future legislation.
Since 2002/2004 California has made several improvements and expansions and the overall effects have been: Improved Labor Force Participation, Improved Earnings (particularly for women, POC, and low wage workers), people are taking more care of their family members, reduced utilization of nursing homes by 11% (addtl. Medicaid savings), decrease in shaken baby syndrome diagnosis and improved outcomes around ADHD and Education. Plus, more men are spending time with their new children. Utilization for men have gone increased form less than 15% to 40% of all baby bonding claims, foreshadowing a cultural shift in gender equality. In Rode Island’s program 1/3 of all leave takers were men. When men takes leave it makes it easier for women to go back to work, there is less gender bias, and women have better outcomes.
Nationally, among U.S. adults *“who have taken – or who needed or wanted but were unable to take – parental, family or medical leave in the past two years”* Pew Research says the median length of leave taken by new fathers is 1 week, compared to 11 for new mothers. Workers making more than $75,000 a year will take on median twice as much leave as those making less than $30,000. Ernst and Young places the average of *paid leave* at 4.5 weeks for women and 2.3 weeks for men.
As of July 2019, eight states (California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Oregon) and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that grant parental leave as part of state paid family and medical leave insurance laws, with 4 being effective currently. As of 2016, 12 states (Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming) have passed zero legislation protecting working families since the FMLA in 1993.
Originally California had a wage replacement of 55% and a cap of $1,000 a week, and New Jersey had a wage replacement of 66% and a cap of $500 a week. Both programs were found to be insufficient for low wage earners and the higher of both values became the basis for future legislation, including the National Paid Family Leave Act sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
Some states (Oregon, California, D.C. & Massachusetts) have benefits granted on a progressive scale – either where more wage would be received at the beginning weeks of leave to help workers transition or by giving more family leave benefits to workers with less income.
**There’s a new calling for a national standard: The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (H.R. 1185/S. 463)**
Every Year since 2013, this bill has been reintroduced. When it was first introduced it had support from 6 senators (all democrats) and 57 house seats. And now it has 37 senators and 203 house members, (including 1 House Republican! Chris Smith – NJ). You can see whether your [senator](https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/690/cosponsors?searchResultViewType=expanded&KWICView=false) or [house member](https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1185/cosponsors?searchResultViewType=expanded&KWICView=) are Co-sponsors by following these links. Republicans oppose it because it is an increase in taxes.
The FAMILY Act’s goal is to create a national Paid Family and Medical Leave program set up as a social insurance fund that would guarantee workers up to 12 weeks paid (at 66% of their wage, capped at $4,000 /month indexed yearly) to care for a new child – through birth, adoption, or foster placement, medical emergency and all the same considerations that already exists in the 1993 law without the eligibility restrictions and with pay.
The Social Fund would manifest as a 4/10ths of 1% payroll contribution (a .02% tax increase a week on both the employee and employer side – equivalent to 1/18th of social security). It would look like social security in the way funds are taken out on your paystub and is conceptually and structurally similar. That cost would pay for the benefits itself and the administration, outreach, and education of the program.
The Center for American Progress estimates that the FAMILY Act would make 77 percent to 84 percent of all U.S. workers eligible for paid leave.
Employers will still be able to compete by offering workers more than this standard requires.
# I heard there’s an Election, What are the Candidates Saying?
First off, they are listening to the people:
* 8 in 10 voters support a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave policy that covers all people who work (84%).
* 8 in 10 feel the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) needs an update (82%).
* Voters prefer paying for a national paid family and medical leave policy through a shared cost between employers and employees.
* Despite the makeup of the current support for the FAMILY ACT, it receives bipartisan support from Republican and Democratic voters.
* The CATO Institute poll is unreasonable and an outlier. Median Wage workers can expect to pay between $76.85 and $97.72 depending on part-time work status. Most anyone will pay a year is $250 year for the highest wage. CATO’s poll still says 78% of Americans support a federal program and a majority of Americans (54%) support $200 on a federal leave program.
* Small Business 7 in 10 in favor payroll tax contribution, family leave insurance
Almost all presidential candidates have policies. All of them who do use the FAMILY Act as baseline, but some have gone farther. Many candidates also have polices detailing other worker protections like sick/vacation days, childcare, and early education.
*I only researched candidates polling above 3% on average.*
**Sen. Bernie Sanders** – Co-Sponsor of the FAMILY Act
**Sen. Elizabeth Warren** – Co-Sponsor of the FAMILY Act
**Former V.P. Joe Biden** – How long should paid maternity leave last? *12 weeks*. Should maternity leave be paid for by employers? Government? Combination? *Government*. (Note: Government paid is the least popular method according to polling)
**Mayor Pete Buttigieg** – “enhanced” version of the FAMILY Act
**Michael Bloomberg** – supportive. Details unknown. His company provides 6 months (27 weeks) of leave.
**Andrew Yang** – How long should paid maternity leave last? *Nine months to be split between parents; six months for a single parent.* Should maternity leave be paid for by employers? Government? Combination? *Combination.*
**Sen. Amy Klobuchar** – Co-Sponsor of the FAMILY Act
**Donald J. Trump –** proposal includes paid leave for mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents. (only parental leave, no medical) The proposal provides six weeks of paid leave, is financed through state unemployment insurance (UI) systems in partnership with the federal government, and is paid for by offsetting reforms to the UI system. During his administration progress has been made for parental leave (no medical leave) for federal employees for 12 weeks.
*Notably, Kamila Harris, before she dropped out, advocated for a 6 month 100% wage replacement policy.*
# I don’t Like the FAMILY Act, What are the Alternatives?
***Many of these alternatives only cover family leave. They do not cover medical emergencies and other exigencies.***
**Do Nothing, Cost of the Status Quo**
Center for American progress estimates families aggregated lose 20.6 billion dollars a year because of inadequate or no PFML, babies not taking wellness visits and immunizations, 23% of people returning to work within 2 weeks, 95% of dads who are not even taking 2 weeks, low wage workers don’t have bargaining power to get similar benefits, costing $300,000 on income and retirement savings for older workers who leave work to care for aging parent, higher nursing home expenses, businesses with higher turnover, higher spending made by other programs and personal bills not being paid.
**A regulatory mandate as opposed to a social fund**
Where employers are required to provide it, the government won’t be in involved.
This has the potential to allow employers to discriminate against people in the hiring process (example: women who might become pregnant, or workers who appear to have a serious illness) as a business is incentivized not to make these payouts when avoidable. There would also be reasonable exemptions for small business and a social fund instead of a regulatory mandate will provide more flexibility to how money gets spent.
Even larger businesses are advocating for uniformity as they are forced to comply with multiple state regulatory processes making compliance expensive. Stating: *“Legislation should provide uniform standards that apply to all covered employees and that adhere to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act requirements. Doing so would benefit employees needing coverage as well as help businesses challenged by the growing patchwork of competing and inconsistent state plans … Legislation should give employers flexibility in managing paid family and medical leave benefits”*. They do differ on the particulars of implementation but do want the federal government to preempt these policies.
Keep in mind though what business’ incentives are, Walmart received a gold star in a lot the press by offering leave 6 weeks for family leave … for full time workers … 60% of Walmart’s workforce is part time … Small business as mentioned are in favor of a government administered tax fund.
**Subsidize the Employer**
Marco Rubio was the first republican to come forward with paid family leave plan. It was a subsidy awarded to businesses as a *“25% non-refundable tax credit that voluntarily offer at least four weeks of paid family leave, limited to twelve weeks of leave and $4,000 per employee each year.”* and included raising the child tax credit by $2,500.
A similar plan (**Paid Family Leave Pilot Extension Act)** ended up inside the 2017 Tax Bill by Sen. Deb Fischer, (R-Neb) which provided a tax credit of 12.5% (up to 25%) of what the company pays towards the worker for the company. It requires companies to offer at least two weeks (12 weeks to receive the full credit) of family leave where the employee both makes less than $72,000 a year and the paid leave covers 50% of their wage. This provision was designed as a test and lasted until the end of 2019.
**“Social Security Parental Leave Program” by the Independent Women’s Forum / “Economic Security for New Parents Act” introduced by Marco Rubio (R-FL) and sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO).**
A parent of a new child could take up to 12 weeks of leave per year and receive on average 45 percent of their pay. Individuals would need to delay their retirement by about 25 weeks for each 12 weeks of leave or see a cut in their Social Security retirement benefits if they retire earlier. In addition the Urban Institute states *“Participants who take 12 weeks of paid leave would experience a 3 percent decline in lifetime Social Security retirement benefits, but losses would be significantly higher for people with larger families who take multiple leaves.”*
With Rubio’s version it allows for each parent to pull from their Social Security Benefit in order to take 2 months of family leave, with their respective weeks transferable. According to the Urban Institute, this would be an improvement, and *“replace slightly more than one-half of earnings for parents who leave work for three months and about four-fifths of earnings for parents who leave work for two months”.*
Naturally you would be borrowing from your future self under the assumption you’ll still be able-bodied to work past the retirement date. 58% of people oppose this plan according to National [Partnership.org](https://Partnership.org)
**Why take leave, when you can pull out a Loan? The Advancing Support for Working Families Act…….**
Bipartisan duos, U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik & Colin Allred and Senators Bill Cassidy & Kyrsten Sinema have proposed legislation where new parents can get an advance (one-time interest free loan) on the future value of their child tax credit. It would allow parents to claim $5,000 of their tax credit with a new child and then over the next 10 years receive& $500 dollars less of the aforementioned credit.
**I’m #ChildFree without any intent of having a child, why do Parents get all the benefits?**
It is paid family **and medical** leave. Virtually everyone will use this program at one point or another in their life. These things are combined for a few reasons. First, it makes sure everyone is able to have some sort of skin in the game, whether you’re a parent or that your parents will grow old one day and requires care – this makes support of the program go up, as well as builds more political will to make it happen. Second, birthing is still a medical process with a lot of expensive care required and even in adoption preparing a new home for a little one is costly on top of the actual process of adoption. Third, this program is about creating economic stability for families and low wage workers that requires a more holistic approach for the ways life interrupts our work.
With the Family Leave Medical Act of 1993, approximately 55% of people used it to recover from their own illness, 21% a new child, and 18% for family care giving. The FAMILY Act will cover all the same reasons but workers will also be paid. By 2050 up to 20.2% of the American population is projected to be over the age of 65. According to Ernst and Young, 25% of millennials already care for another family member.
Also, here’s a link the U.S. House [Oversight Committee’s hearing on Examining the Need for Comprehensive National Paid Family and Medical Leave](https://oversight.house.gov/legislation/hearings/examining-the-need-for-comprehensive-national-paid-family-and-medical-leave) that happened just last month. Testimony are provided by:
* Jacqui Silvani – Newfields, New Hampshire
* The Honorable Robert Asaro-Angelo – Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development
* Aaron Seyedian – Founder, Well-Paid Maids
* Jennifer Tucker – Senior Policy Advisor, The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
* Vicki Shabo – Senior Fellow, Paid Leave Policy and Strategy, Better Life Lab, New America
*In today’s world, you’ve got to go back to work while you’re bleeding or your mother dying.*