When It Comes to Paid Leave, the Details Matter

Yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Representative Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) released a new paid leave proposal to provide new parents the time they desperately need to care for themselves and their newborns. While the bill – titled the Economic Security for New Parents Act – sounds good, it is flawed for several reasons:

  1. The Rubio bill forces parents to choose between paid time off now and their retirement security later. According to the proposal, parents will have the option to borrow from their own Social Security savings in order to finance their paid leave. But in doing so, they will have to delay the date at which they can begin receiving their retirement benefits. Analysis of this plan indicates it would “erode participants’ retirement security.” It may also have devastating effects on low-wage workers in particular – who are predominantly women and women of color – who are already the least likely to have paid leave through their employer and who will rely heavily on their social security when they retire.
  2. The Rubio bill does not provide sufficient wage replacement. According to the Urban Institute’s analysis, the program would replace roughly half of the earnings for typical new parents. Yet, we know from the few states with paid leave policies that when wage replacement is too low, families cannot afford to take the leave they need.
  3. The Rubio bill only provides paid leave for new parents, excluding the significant needs of America’s workers to care for a loved one or recover from an injury or illness themselves. In fact, 75 percent of people that take unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) take leave for these reasons.

During the press conference to announce this new bill, Senator Rubio stated: “Issues that are about our children and their families should not be ideological or partisan.” At 1,000 Days we completely agree with this statement, and are encouraged to see that more and more policymakers on Capitol Hill and in state capitals across the country are getting the message that America workers need paid leave. But the details matter.

As the debate around a national paid leave policy continues, we urge Members of Congress to prioritize 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.