Paid Leave Proposals Introduced

March 20, 2019

In recent weeks, the issue of paid family leave has garnered attention from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Most recently, President Trump proposed a six-week federal paid family leave program and a one-time, $1 billion fund to help private employers set up paid family leave programs in his FY 2020 budget.

A number of bills have been introduced to add to family leave, both paid and unpaid. Upon further examination of these measures, NSBA believes all of them would impede job creation and create overly burdensome and complex new regulations for smaller employers. Since the majority of business owners already offer some kind of paid sick leave, any additional requirements could cause productivity to decrease and compliance cost to increase from new mandates.

NSBA has long urged Congress to oppose any move to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)—which several of these bills would do. The administration of even the existing laws have been a problem for businesses. Paperwork and legal requirements have overwhelmed small-business owners, who, prior to FMLA, often allowed employees time off without the government telling them how to do it. 

On March 12, Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) proposed the CRADLE Act, which allows new parents to draw on their Social Security benefits in exchange for delaying receipt of those benefits upon retirement. Essentially, the Ernst-Lee proposal would allow new parents to tap into their Social Security savings, and later delay their retirement, to take paid time off after the birth or adoption of a child.

On March 14, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Healthy Families Act (S. 840 / H.R. 1516), legislation that would allow workers to annually accrue up 56 hours of paid sick leave or seven days of paid sick leave each year. Under the legislation, all covered workers would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.


On Feb. 12, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income while taking family leave. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (H.R. 1185 / S. 463), allows eligible workers to earn 66 percent of their monthly wages (capped at $4,000) for up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a new child, a serious health condition of their own or of a family member, and for a limited set of other situations involving military service members.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) introduced the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act of 2019 (H.R. 1534), which would provide federal employees with 12 weeks’ paid leave for all instances covered by FMLA. Lawmakers have for years pushed for paid parental leave for federal employees, but currently the workers are entitled only to 12 weeks of time off under the 1993 FMLA. That time, however, is unpaid.

While these measures may have good intentions, NSBA believes that employees and employers should be able to determine for themselves the allocation of compensation between money, paid sick leave, paid vacation leave, health insurance, retirement and other employee benefits. The government should not mandate how small businesses compensate their employees. There is no particular approach that meets the needs of all employees or employers.