U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) announced they will introduce today The Strong Families Act, legislation to incentivize employers to voluntarily provide employees with paid parental or medical leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which can be used for events like the birth or adoption of children, serious medical issues, or providing care to close family members. The challenge for many working families, particularly hourly workers living paycheck-to-paycheck, is that current law does not involve paid time off.
The Strong Families Act would enable working families to have continued access to pay while they are meeting necessary family obligations. The King-Fischer plan would create a tax credit to encourage employers of any size to voluntarily offer paid leave for workers; the legislation includes no new mandates.
To be eligible for the tax credit, the employer must, at a minimum, offer four weeks of paid leave; they may offer more.
Paid leave would be available on an hourly basis and would be separate from other vacation or sick leave; part-time employees qualify for paid leave.
For each hour of paid leave provided, the employer would receive a 25 percent non-refundable tax credit. The more paid FMLA time the employer offers, the greater the tax credit.
This tax credit would be available to any employer with qualified employees, regardless of size.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who participate in the program.
The senators released the following statements:
"America's family leave policies are antiquated and shortsighted. How can we expect to create a world-class workforce that can compete in a global economy if we don't give our workforce a chance to succeed? Too often working parents are taking care of growing kids and aging parents and finding it nearly impossible to make ends meet," said Senator King. "It's time that our family leave policies caught up with the realities of a changing world and the demands of a global economy. Our bill is one way we can encourage employers to make it easier for working mothers and fathers to make a living and take the time needed to deal with life's major events. By supporting employees, America will be better poised to compete on a global scale for generations to come."
"With more than half of women working as primary breadwinners, workplace flexibility has become a necessity for 21st century families. It's not just children who require personal care and attention, it's also elderly parents," said Senator Fischer. "This hourly paid leave proposal provides families with the flexibility to take paid time to meet family medical and caregiving obligations. Importantly, our bipartisan plan is also a balanced measure that respects employers' costs of doing business with employee needs. The Strong Families Act creates a meaningful incentive structure to encourage employers to provide working families, including hourly workers, the chance to take paid time off. This plan will strengthen our families, our communities, and our nation."