While success is unlikely for several current Democrat and Republican proposals for a federal paid family and medical leave law — including one by President Donald Trump — think tanks representing both sides of the aisle have come up with a compromise idea they believe might achieve consensus in Congress.
“In these partisan times, we felt an obligation to work toward a compromise that all of us could support to some extent,” write the authors of a joint report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Brookings Institution, “Paid Family and Medical Leave: An Issue Whose Time Has Come.”
“We believed this was better than doing nothing when the U.S. is the only developed nation without a national paid leave policy,” the authors write.
The working group analyzed the pros and cons of three existing proposals: the FAMILY Act introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rose DeLauro; the proposal introduced by President Donald Trump during his campaign, and the Strong Families Act sponsored by Sens. Deb Fischer, Angus King and Marco Rubio.
All three proposals would likely not pass, according to the report, so the working group crafted a compromise proposal: both mothers and fathers would be eligible for benefits; people would be able to get 70 percent of their wages, up to a cap of $600 per week for eight weeks; and their jobs would be protected. The costs for leave would be financed in part by a payroll tax on employees and in part by savings in other parts of the budget.
The report lists several reasons for the working group’s support for paid family and medical leave, including the assertion that the nation’s economic growth depends on strong labor force participation by both men and women.
“Paid parental leave enables parents to remain attached to the labor force while they care for and bond with their new children, and it protects against the financial hardship of going without an income during leave,” the authors write.
The working group concedes that little is known about how their proposal might work in practice, so the authors call for an independent study of the consequences.
“We recognize that there is a balance between the generosity and the cost of a parental leave policy and that there is no right answer to where that balance should be struck,” the authors write. “Moreover, we believe current estimates of cost need improvement and that a more inclusive policy that covers all types of leave in a flexible but cost-effective manner deserves further consideration.”
HR Dive analyzes the working group’s compromise, as well as any future proposal that would be similar, writing that the “devil is in the details” for business advocacy groups on how much businesses would be accountable for any additional taxes. Moreover, any increase in payroll taxes is likely to draw “grumbles from yet other corners.”
“Somebody’s got to pay for paid leave,” HR Dive writes. “Employers who have the financial bandwidth to do so have been increasingly open about their paid leave policies, but small employers and part-time heavy businesses are a different story.”