Yves here. I haven’t seen much in the way of details as to how the proposed 12 week paid family leave program would work. Obviously this is subject to negotiation, but below are some main points from the initial draft, per Health Affairs:
Biden’s American Families Plan proposes to phase in, over 10 years, 12 weeks of paid leave for: parents, including same-gender couples, caring for a newborn, adopted or foster child; workers addressing their own or a loved one’s serious illness; workers dealing with the effects of a family member’s military deployment or service-related injury; survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault; and workers grieving the loss of a loved one.
The program would provide most workers—including the self-employed, part-time, and contract workers—a minimum of two-thirds of weekly wages or salary, up to $4,000 a month. Lower-wage workers would get up to 80 percent of pay. The benefit would be government funded and coordinated with existing state and employer-provided paid leave. (Twenty percent of private-sector workers currently have access to paid leave. The federal program would be a baseline that employers and states could choose to add to.)
The White House estimates the program would cost $225 billion over 10 years….Biden proposes funding his paid leave program with general tax revenues—specifically through tax increases on upper-income families and corporations.
Even if the government pays for the benefit, having employees leave, even for important and completely legitimate reasons, is disruptive, particularly is the employee has high developed skills or knowledge. So I can see employers trying to find ways to structure work relations so as to fall outside this requirement. For instance, how are staffers who serve less than half time treated?
The White House website description of the plan is coy about the status of part-time employees. The only mention is in the problem description, not the solution:
Low-wage and part-time workers, a majority of whom are women, are less likely to have access to paid sick days.
Note employee/employer me would not have benefitted had this law been in place when I got my hip replacement. Like many of the self-employed, I take payroll only once a year, and that wasn’t in the quarter when I had my operation.
Long-winded way of saying any the US is way behind global standards and needs to do better, but here as everywhere, how beneficial this family leave benefit proves to be will very much depend on details.
Keli Vereb wasn’t sure how long it would take to recover from complicated neck surgery last year, but she took comfort knowing she’d be able to focus on healing without having to worry about her job.
That’s because United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2227-01 negotiated a contract with Vereb’s employer, U.S. Steel, ensuring paid leave for workers who need time to fight for their health.
Millions of other workers need the same security. But they’re out of luck because America remains the only major industrialized country without a universal paid leave program that protects workers’ livelihoods while they confront serious health and family issues.
President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan fills this gaping hole in the nation’s social infrastructure. It would provide workers with 12 weeks of paid leave so they can navigate some of life’s biggest challenges without fear of unsympathetic bosses docking their wages or even firing them for taking time off.
“I didn’t worry about how I was going to pay the bills while I was off,” Vereb, a caster scheduler based at U.S. Steel’s Irvin Works near Pittsburgh, said of the three months she relied on her union-negotiated leave last year. “My benefits continued. My pension kept accruing.”
Vereb faced an arduous recovery after the operation, one of three she’s had over the years because of injuries sustained in a fender-bender three decades ago.
“It was a whole lot of healing,” recalled Vereb, a union griever, citing the pain and the line of 25 stitches starting at the back of her head. “The first six weeks, I had my neck in a neck immobilizer. I couldn’t even… [take] a shower on my own.”
She’s grateful that the USW fights to retain the leave program during every round of negotiations with U.S. Steel and realizes that many workers across the country are entirely subject to the whims of their bosses.
In the absence of a national paid sick and family leave program, many shortsighted and callous employers force Americans to choose between their health and their paychecks.
About 25 percent of private sector workers lack even one paid sick day a year, let alone a paid leave program. So many put off health screenings or other preventive care, at the risk of compounding their health problems, so they can keep working to cover the bills.
Other Americans power through their jobs despite kidney stones or cancer treatments or report to work with the flu, sore throats or runny noses, even though they can spread diseases to others and put entire workplaces in jeopardy.
The American Families Plan would spare workers those kinds of agonizing decisions, providing them time off not only for themselves but also to care for seriously ill family members, welcome new children, adjust to loved ones’ military deployments, grieve relatives’ deaths or seek safety following sexual assaults, stalking or domestic violence.
“It should be a benefit everyone has,” observed Cheryl Husk, recording secretary for USW Local 9423, which represents workers at Century Aluminum in Hawesville, Kentucky.
Husk’s son recently needed time off to provide around-the-clock care for his wife and newborn, but he could only get an unpaid leave from his nonunion mechanic’s job. Husk and other family members chipped in to help cover his bills during his time as a caregiver.
Providing paid leave for family emergencies is not only humane but also a way to protect others in the workplace.
“I don’t want to be working beside somebody who’s distracted by medical issues at home,” Husk explained. “That doesn’t create a good work atmosphere for anybody. It can even be quite dangerous.”
Also, as other countries have discovered in the case of maternity leave, paid time off contributes to a nation’s competitiveness.
In America, the lack of universal maternity leave forces many moms back to work within just two weeks of giving birth.
“I could never see that,” said Alycia Allen, a painter at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, where members of USW Local 8888 build nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers for the Navy. “Your body’s not even ready yet.”
When her four-year-old daughter, Skylah, was born, Allen leveraged a pair of USW-negotiated benefits to spend about two months with her infant. Without her union contract, said Allen, a trustee and safety chairperson for Local 8888, she’d have been one of those moms prematurely driven back to work.
Rather than go back too soon, however, some mothers reluctantly quit their jobs, sacrificing careers and income for parenthood. As many as 30 percent of women without paid leave exit the workforce within a year of having a baby. And some remain out for a decade or longer.
Vereb already knows she’ll need a fourth surgery to address the continuing deterioration in her neck.
While she knows her union will ensure she has the time off she needs to recover, she can’t help thinking about her brother, who works for a transportation company, and her sister, a grocery store worker, who have no paid leave at all.
If they needed time off for surgery, Vereb said, “they would just lose their jobs.”