Republicans to Take Stab at Keeping Trump’s Paid Leave Promise

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By Chris Opfer

House Republicans in coming weeks are expected to introduce a bill shielding employers from state and local paid leave requirements if they offer workers a certain amount of paid time off for family and medical reasons, sources familiar with the measure told Bloomberg BNA May 18.

The business-backed legislation—which would allow employers to opt in by offering paid maternity, paternity, family and sick leave, as well as flexible work arrangements—is GOP lawmakers’ attempt to follow through on promises made by President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump. It also appeases businesses, which would prefer not to deal with the web of various paid leave laws at the state and local levels.

“President Trump has made clear that providing families with access to paid leave will help uplift American workers, families, and the economy, but we do not have a position on any specific legislation at this time,” a White House spokesman told Bloomberg BNA May 18.

The legislation would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which sets minimum requirements for pension and other benefits plans. ERISA bars state and local governments from implementing additional restrictions or requirements on employee benefit plans.

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) is expected to introduce the measure within the month, according to sources familiar with the legislation. The amount of leave that a business would have to offer to be eligible for the safe harbor would vary based on number of employees.

T.W. Arrighi, Walters’ communications director, didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

Trump in his February address to Congress urged lawmakers to work to “ensure new parents have paid family leave.” Ivanka Trump said during the Republican Convention last year that her father planned to look at paid leave and bias issues affecting women and other workers.

Business Groups Lobbying

The Society for Human Resource Management has been leading the lobbying charge on the legislation. The HR Policy Association, which also lobbied House lawmakers on paid leave this year, floated a similar idea in a report last month.

SHRM and the HR Policy Association advocate for businesses on workplace policy issues.

“Navigating the current patchwork of state and local requirements is a real challenge for SHRM’s HR members,” Lisa Horn, director of congressional affairs at SHRM, told Bloomberg BNA May 18. “This proposal builds on what many employers are doing and provides expanded paid leave and flexible work arrangements for employees, while providing certainty and predictability for employers.”

A representative for one business group familiar with the legislation told Bloomberg BNA the organization “strongly supports the concept” but has “some concerns” with the piece of the bill that requires employers to offer some type of flexible working arrangements. The specific flexible work requirements called for in the legislation are still not clear.

States Forge Ahead

The measure comes as several cities and states are enhancing family and sick leave protections for workers.

A New York law slated to take effect next year, for example, will offer workers up to 12 weeks of at least partially paid leave when fully implemented. The law establishes a temporary disability fund in the state workers’ compensation insurance system, funded by employee payroll deductions.

A law pending in Washington would require employers to offer workers at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for childbirth, illness or related reasons. The law also protects workers who take FMLA leave from being fired, demoted or transferred.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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