WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers are slated to secure twelve full weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers as part of the annual defense spending bill but it falls short of what progressives and long time advocates truly wanted.
“Income support for new parents is not enough. Seventy five percent of workers who take FMLA, Family and Medical Leave, currently do so to address a serious health condition of their own or of a loved one,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut as she testified before the House Oversight Committee.
The issue was the subject a Oversight Committee hearing Tuesday, chaired for the first time by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York after the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings.
The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires most employers to provide leave for up to twelve weeks but it’s unpaid.
“Right now we are one of only two nations in the world that does not provide our workers with any form of paid family or medical leave,” said Maloney.
“Sixty percent of working people cannot access unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act according to researchers from Brandeis University either because they are ineligible or they cannot afford to,” said DeLauro.
Paid family leave has enjoyed bipartisan support over the years but many of the bills before Congress that would expand protections for workers have few Republican co-sponsors. Some conservatives have voiced concern about implementing what they describe as another government mandate.
“Is paid family leave necessary? Are a large number of federal workers depleting their paid vacation leave and sick days for parental and medical leave? Do federal agencies have policies in place that substitute for paid family leave,” said Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
“Government mandates, increasing the minimum wage, these are plans that have been in place for decades. They haven’t worked. They really haven’t served those areas of extreme poverty,” said Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky.
The paid leave deal doesn’t include time off to care for a seriously ill loved one or to recover from a serious illness.