During his address to Congress Tuesday night, President Trump again raised the dual issues of paid leave and child care, expressing a desire to work across the aisle on both policies. The move was intended to appeal to women lawmakers, many of whom wore white to the address in protest of his negative personal and professional track record on women’s issues.
In previous statements, Trump outlined a proposal that would stop short of actual paid family leave to cover parental leave only. Further concerning advocates was the apparent intention to cover only new biological mothers, excluding fathers, adoptive parents and others from accessing the leave.
While Trump’s language during Tuesday’s address was slightly more vague about who would be eligible under his paid parental leave plan, it’s clear that family leave — which would allow working people to take paid leave to care for other family members, or recover from serious illness — still isn’t on the table. Then there’s the issue of how we’ll pay for it; in previous versions of the proposal, Trump outlined his intent to pay for the program using already inadequate unemployment insurance funds.
The effect of excluding fathers is exceedingly problematic from a workplace equity perspective. Establishing a parental leave program that only women can access will almost certainly have negative consequences for women workers, making it less likely for women of childbearing age to rise to the top of the candidate pool, receive promotions and generally thrive in the workplace.
If President Trump really wants to improve the lot of working families via a paid leave policy, there’s already a bill in Congress that would do that. It’s called the Family & Medical Leave Act, and it’s broadly supported by most of the women lawmakers he’s so eager to work with. Perhaps he should start there.