A majority of Americans including 63 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Independents support a federal paid family leave policy, according to the latest survey released by the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF).
The strong support for paid family leave is not surprising because American workers no longer want to choose between paying their bills and caring for their loved one or dealing with their personal health problems.
Currently, the United States is the only industrialized country that does not have a law that ensures workers have access to paid family and medical leave. The country’s existing Family and Leave Act requires large companies to offer their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a baby or sick family member.
The survey showed that most Americans want lawmakers to have common ground principles in an effort to enact a federal paid family leave policy. These common ground principles include:
- Workers should have as much control and flexibility as possible over the benefits that would arise from a paid family leave legislation.
- A paid leave policy must remain budget neutral over the long term and should not increase the financial burden on those who choose not to have children and do not need the benefit.
In a statement, IWF president Carrie Lukas, commented, “American want a paid leave approach that threads the needle — providing support for parents who need it, but without unfairly shifting costs to others, growing government, or discouraging employers from providing benefits on their own.”
On Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled House Ways & Means Committee held a hearing on paid family and medical leave. Lawmakers from both political parties as well as the White House agree that it’s time to address the issue to help workers and employers succeed.
Ivanka Trump, the daughter and senior adviser of President Donald Trump, has been pushing for a bipartisan agreement on paid family leave, which is one of her major policy initiatives.
Democrats and Republicans are willing to work together to expand access to paid family leave
In his remarks during the hearing, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal noted that since the FMLA became law 25 years ago, American workers have taken leave over 200 million times. He also noted that fewer than 10 percent of employers had problems complying with the law. In fact, many reported that the FMLA helped them reduce turnover and improve workers’ morale.
According to Cong. Neal, the FMLA “was an important first step” because it “provided most workers with access to unpaid leave.” However, it is impossible for middle-class workers especially those on the lower end of pay scale to take unpaid leave to care for a family member or deal with serious personal medical problem. According to him, middle-class workers often struggle to make ends meet. They simply cannot afford to take unpaid leave. If they do, they have to cut it short.
“Fewer than half of American workers currently have access to employer-provided medical leave, and only 17 percent can receive paid parental or caregiving leave through their employers,” said Cong. Neal.
Additionally, Cong. Neal emphasized, “Lack of paid leave doesn’t just harm workers and their families. It also makes it difficult for employers to recruit and retain good workers. Many small business owners would like to provide paid leave, but can’t without the backstop of a state or federal program”
“And the lack of access to paid leave hurts our economy by forcing talented, hard-working people to take a step back in their careers or drop out of the labor force entirely.”
Furthermore, Cong. Neal said some of the largest states already implemented comprehensive paid leave laws. The progress made by states does not excuse Congress from taking federal action on the matter. American workers have spoken loud and clear that paid family and medical leave is important.
The Congress hears them and ready to move forward to find a solution.
In his remarks, Cong. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee, said they “support expanding access to paid family and medical leave, and hope to work with Democrats and President Trump to find the right way to help families balance work and family.”
In addition, Cong. Brady said “Republicans created the first national tax policy on paid family and medical leave” under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“The Paid Family and Medical Leave Tax Credit reimburses businesses up to 25 percent of the cost of providing paid leave to their workers. In this first-ever pilot program, businesses can get help for offering up to 12 weeks of paid leave,” said Cong. Brady.
The Paid Family and Medical Leave Tax credit is set to expire this year and he is encouraging his fellow lawmakers to make it permanent.
He concluded his remarks by saying, “Today the question isn’t whether to expand paid family leave, but how best to achieve it…”
Right now, lawmakers from both parties are enthusiastic and have put forward different paid family leave policy proposals. It appears that they are willing to set aside partisanship and pass a bill that is in the best interest of working families, employers, and the country’s economy.