Give workers paid family leave

A father taking care of his children at home
Image via iStock

What Biden and Harris are proposing:

In late July, Biden announced a new $75 billion annual plan to boost child and elder care. Part of plan: 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Biden says he will pay for it, at least in part, by closing a tax break for real estate investors who earn more than $400,000 per year. 

His proposal is hardly an outlier within his own party. During the primary, all the major Democratic candidates said they wanted Americans to be able to take at least three months off work — with pay — to care for a new baby or seriously ill family member. Former candidate and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation that would create a national family leave program giving workers two-thirds of their normal pay for up to 12 weeks, and 34 Democratic senators co-sponsored the bill. Even the Trump administration supports a policy that it characterizes as expanding paid family leave, though the legislation doesn’t actually provide families with additional money.

What California is doing:

In 2004, California was the first state in the nation to create paid family leave, offering workers six weeks of partial pay to care for a newborn or sick family member. Workers pay for it through a 1% payroll tax that goes into the State Disability Insurance fund. Gov. Gavin Newsom has expanded the program, giving workers 8 weeks of paid family leave starting on July 1

How’s it going here? 

Though businesses feared increased costs and turnover from giving workers paid family leave, a Harvard study of the program’s first six years showed that didn’t turn out to be the case.  But while almost all workers pay into the program, only half of eligible mothers and a quarter of eligible fathers took paid family leave in 2017, state officials report. Many low-wage workers don’t take paid leave because they can’t afford to get by on partial earnings (the program gives workers 60% to 70% of their normal paychecks, depending on their income). Other workers don’t take it because they may lose their jobs if they do. In August, the California Legislature passed a bill that would make it illegal for most businesses to fire an employee who takes paid leave.