Trump Urges Congress to Address Paid Family Leave

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By Tyrone Richardson

President Donald Trump’s mention of paid family leave in his speech to Congress Feb. 28 has some lawmakers seeking his support for related legislation.

Trump during his address laid out priorities for American workers, including the need for Congress to work to “ensure new parents have paid family leave.” The mention came as lawmakers are proposing various bills to address the issue. Both Democrats and Republicans have voiced support for paid family leave, but they remain divided on whether it should be done through mandates on employers or incentives for those who offer the benefit to their workers.

There’s no indication of how exactly the administration might try to address the issue. A White House aide told Bloomberg BNA March 1 that “there are ongoing discussions with Congress to identify the best path forward.”

Trump’s nod of support for paid family leave follows daughter Ivanka Trump’s criticism of job bias against mothers during remarks at the the Republican Convention last year. The president’s nudge to Congress comes as some employers are offering paid family leave and some state and local governments have enacted measures addressing it.

Democrats, Republicans Divided on Solution

As for Congress, legislation is already in the works. That includes the FAMILY Act ( S.337, H.R. 947), which would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, funded by contributions from employers and workers. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who introduced the Senate version of the bill in February, is hoping to get Trump’s support.

“President Trump also acknowledged our urgent need for paid leave, and I encourage him to support my bill, the FAMILY Act, which would create a national paid leave plan for every American who works,” Gillibrand said in a written statement provided to Bloomberg BNA March 1.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who has opposed such mandates, said she’s hoping to garner support for her Strong Families Act ( S. 344). That measure would offer tax incentives to employers that provide paid family and medical leave.

“I was pleased to once again hear our president emphasize his intention to increase workplace flexibility for families,” Fischer said in a statement March 1. “This is an area I have focused on for nearly four years in the Senate. We have a real opportunity to take significant steps on these issues to improve the lives of families across this country.”

Trump’s comments on paid leave didn’t inspire optimism from all lawmakers. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) told Bloomberg BNA that he’s “very interested in looking at the details” of a Trump paid leave proposal.

“I think the president has sprinkled his speech with a couple of ideas, paid family leave being one of them,” he told Bloomberg BNA March 1. “I think that given how glib and cavalier he can be. Even with a speech to a joint session of Congress, I have my doubts.”

States, Companies Offer Benefits

In the meantime, companies and state and local governments have implemented some forms of paid family leave in recent years.

That includes large companies such as Amazon, which in 2015 expanded its benefits to include 20 paid weeks of leave. The company now offers four weeks of paid pre-partum medical leave for pregnant employees, followed by 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave.

As for states, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) last April signed a law requiring employers to provide 12 weeks of paid family leave for their employees. The law, to be funded by a payroll deduction on employees, will be phased in beginning in 2018.

—Chris Opfer contributed to this story

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@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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