Paid Leave: The Devil is in the Details

By Sarah Ann Kotchian 

Ivanka Trump met in recent weeks with Congressional leaders including Senator Deb Fischer to talk about family work support programs. These programs are important for Nebraska families and they continue to gain strong support across the political spectrum, but we must look beyond the headlines to drill down on the details of what lies beneath the surface of talking points and one-liners. 

In the words of long-time champion of the cause, Ellen Bravo, "The administration's proposal would provide too little time for too few people for too little money from an unreliable funding source."

From an economic standpoint, key findings out last month from Paid Leave for the United States highlight the disparities in access to paid leave based on income. 

  • 94% of low-wage workers in the U.S. have no access to paid family leave
  • One in four new mothers in the U.S. are back at work just 10 days after childbirth
  • People who make more than $75,000 are twice as likely to get paid leave than people who make less than $30,000 
  • Nearly half of new parents who make less than $30,000 annually who did not have fully paid parental leave sought public assistance 

Our current policy framework makes a very clear choice that we value and support funding for public assistance programs over paid family leave. 

The Trump administration and leaders like Senator Fischer have offered proposals to support families, but an even more robust federal proposal, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, sponsored by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) awaits its due attention. 

So, what does good policy design for paid leave look like if and when it is prioritized? It should:

  • Cover all workers regardless of business size or rank or position 
  • Cover family and medical leave for a new child, serious personal or family illness, in all types of families
  • Be affordable for families and for businesses and include job and benefits protection
  • Include adequate time for bonding or healing 

At the Nebraska Unicameral, State Senator Sue Crawford has introduced LB 305 to create the Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance Act. This bill includes all of the key policy principles for good design for paid family and medical leave. 

Who is covered? 

Nebraska employees covered by unemployment insurance - 90-95% of the total workforce in Nebraska. 

How is the program funded? 

Contributions from payroll deductions of covered employees not to exceed one-half of one percent of an employee's gross wages in any twelve month period. 

What are the benefits? 

Benefits are capped and range from 505 to 95% of weekly wages based on earnings. 

Nondiscrimination

Covered individuals are entitled to have their jobs or equivalent positions back upon return including fringe benefits and service credits. 

How long can a worker receive benefits? 

6-8 weeks depending on type of leave. (6 weeks for care for a family member or military exigency leave.) (12 weeks for care for self or for a new child.)

Is there an unpaid waiting period? 

Yes, a 7 day unpaid waiting period with two military exceptions. If an individual takes 10 or more days of paid family medical leave in a benefit year, they shall be paid for the waiting period.

Notice

Each covered employer shall provide written notice upon hiring and annually thereafter. 

Legislative Intent and Reporting 

Utilize existing data and technology, including unemployment insurance, and submit an annual report with data that includes usage, contributions and costs. 

 

You can show your support for LB 305 and Paid Leave for Nebraska by signing our petition.

As they say, the devil is in the details. And rest assured, if we do not focus on the details to assure any new federal or state law meets the "Triple A" test: accessible, affordable and of adequate duration for all workers who need time to care for themselves, a new child, or for a seriously ill family member, we will continue to wrestle with the devil in the absence of this important policy for all. 

 


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