Trump’s Paid Leave Proposal: Not the Plan America’s Families Need

The words “paid family leave” made it into the Trump administration’s 2018 spending plan. This may seem like a step in the right direction, but 1,000 Days sees this for what it is: a second-rate policy proposal that does not meet the needs of America’s hardworking families.

The Trump plan would allow states to establish programs that provide six weeks of paid leave to new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents. For starters, six weeks of leave does not come close to meeting families’ care-giving needs. 1,000 Days supports a minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave for working parents upon the birth or adoption of a child. Furthermore, the President’s plan for paid leave is flawed in its proposed implementation. Built upon state unemployment insurance programs—the majority of which are underfunded and pay an average of just 46% of employee pay—it’s likely that America’s workers will receive just a fraction of their paycheck while on leave. Evidence from existing paid leave programs in states like California shows that when the wage replacement is too low, many workers—particularly low-wage workers, the vast majority of whom are women—cannot afford to take advantage of family leave. Given that states would have wide latitude to design the program the way they want, we don’t know what this program would look like, who would get which benefits and how much.

Details like this matter. And America’s families deserve better.

And while the inclusion of paid leave in the President’s budget is on the one hand a testament to the growing public demand for paid family and medical leave, it’s important to realize that it comes at the expense of health, nutrition and safety net programs that many families with young children rely on.

The time is now for Congress to act to support a well-designed and comprehensive paid leave program that truly benefits families. Earlier this year, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the FAMILY Act to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to all workers, regardless of the size of their employer, their gender, their marital status, or need for paid time off. Congress should dismiss the President’s paid leave proposal and get to work on passing common-sense legislation like the FAMILY Act to enable working families in the U.S. the opportunity to give their children the strongest start to life.

Working Families Need Flexibility, Not False Choices

We at 1,000 Days are very concerned about the Working Families Flexibility Act which is currently moving through Congress. This piece of legislation would have a significant impact on hourly workers – who are overwhelmingly low-income women, including millions of mothers with young children. While the bill sounds great in name, it misses the mark entirely in substance.

Instead of providing workers with the flexibility to spend time with their families – such as for the birth of a child – this bill would force people to choose between time-and-a-half overtime pay and paid time off – or “comp time” – when they work more than 40 hours in a week. This doesn’t give families the flexibility they need. Rather, it presents America’s hard-working families with a false choice between time and pay, when what they really need is both.

There are several problems with this proposal:

    1. Workers only earn comp time to spend with their families after spending more time away from them by working overtime.
    2. The bill does not guarantee that workers could use the time they earned (and banked) when they need it, such as for the birth of a child or a medical emergency. Employers would have the right to deny employees’ requests to use their comp time.
    3. The bill does nothing to address the need for all working Americans – not just hourly workers – to have guaranteed access to paid family and medical leave.

Working families do need flexibility, but this is not it. America’s workers should be paid for the time that they work – including overtime – AND have access to paid time off for personal and family needs. People should not have to work more than 40 hours in a week and forgo pay to earn the time they need to care for themselves and their loved ones.

Rather than putting forth piecemeal approaches that do more harm than good, Congress should focus on policies that improve the health and economic security of our nation’s families.

That’s why 1,000 Days is calling for a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy – like the FAMILY Act – that helps ALL working parents in the U.S. give their children the strongest start to life.

Statement on the Reintroduction of the FAMILY Act

In the United States, too many parents are forced to choose between the jobs they need and the families they love.

Without guaranteed paid time off from work, 1 in 4 women return to work just 10 days after giving birth and 40% of women do not reach their breastfeeding goals. Yet evidence shows that paid leave contributes to healthier outcomes for children and their families.

Parents need time to bond with their babies. Moms need time to recover from childbirth. And mom and baby need time to establish breastfeeding, which is proven to have significant health benefits for both women and children.

The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid leave policy. America’s families deserve better and our children deserve the strongest start to life.

We applaud Representative DeLauro and Senator Gillibrand, along with their Congressional colleagues, for standing up for the health and economic security of all American families by introducing the FAMILY Act.