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Congress won’t leave paid leave alone

The changed landscape may open the doors to paid leave realization

Posted February 19, 2021

It’s baaaack: The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act was reintroduced in Congress (S 463/HR 1185) in early February.

The FAMILY Act would apply to all employers and entitle all employees to paid leave for serious medical and other events. The law would provide up to 66% of wage replacement for up to 12 weeks of leave take for the same reasons that qualify under the FMLA, with some expansions:

  • Spouse would include domestic partners,
  • Children would include those of an individual’s domestic partner

Domestic partner would be defined as another individual with whom the employee is in a committed relationship, including civil unions.

A Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) benefit payment would be coordinated with any periodic benefits received under a state or local temporary disability insurance or family leave program.

An office of Paid Family and Medical Leave would be established within the Social Security Administration. The Internal Revenue Code would be amended to impose a tax on employers, employees, and self-employed individuals to fund FMLI benefits. It would also establish the Federal Family and Medical Leave Insurance Trust Fund to hold tax revenues.

Why is this important now? The bill currently has 219 cosponsors. Senator Gillibrand indicated that the measure has some methods it could see its way to the finish line. It could be considered as a standalone bill, or it could be part of a COVID relief package.

It could also be passed through a budget reconciliation process. This means it would require only a simple majority for passage in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans each have 50 seats in the Senate, but Harris, a Democrat, holds the tie-breaking vote. She supports paid leave and has indicated that the pandemic has accelerated the need for a federal law. President Biden has also indicated support for paid leave.

Friends, this might be worthy of note. While it has been introduced every two years since 2013, perhaps this time around, it could see the light of passage.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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