Commentary, News

Fight for paid leave making inroads (modest ones anyway) in Congress

Stephanie Carson over at Women Advance has a somewhat encouraging post today about the ongoing fight for modern paid leave laws. As Carson notes, the idea being discussed today (paid leave that could be taken in lieu of Social Security benefits) is fraught with problems, but at least they’re talking about the issue.

Congress takes up paid leave today

By Stephanie Carson

If you’ve ever needed to take leave to care for your children, it’s time to pay attention to what’s happening in Washington today. The Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy will hold a hearing on a proposal that could give parents the ability to take paid family leave.

On the table, is an approach that would allow parents to defer their Social Security payments to cover parental leave. A bill including this framework is expected to be introduced later this week by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) later this week.

While on its surface, it seems like the proposal could be a step forward in our country’s efforts to catch up with the western world, many have concerns over the ramifications. Specifically, it forces parents to choose time with their child over financial security in retirement. Beyond that, the amount covered for paid leave would equal 45% of wages, an amount insufficient for many people to access the leave.

As a woman, I have mixed emotions about the legislation. When I had my first daughter, I worked at a news outlet that allowed us to take short term disability to cover our maternity leave. (The fact that I actually got paid because having a baby was a “disability” still goads me.) But I couldn’t take it until I spent my entire vacation time first. My daughter was born in April. That meant for the first year of her life, I didn’t even have the days to take Christmas off to be with her.

If someone had offered me the ability to defer my Social Security benefits, I would have taken it. However, I was one of the lucky women whose husband had a high-paying job and we could have lived on half my salary for a few months, particularly if you consider the child care savings as well.

But I was an anomaly. Most families can’t afford it, and it seems to me that this is another proposal that would benefit high wage earning families, and ignore the families in need of the support.

There’s another proposal on the table proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The FAMILY Act would create paid family leave and medical leave financed through higher payroll taxes. Her bill would cover two-thirds of wages for 12 weeks.

But regardless, I’m happy our Congress is talking about this, even if their proposal isn’t exactly what we’d like to see on the books. They’re laying the groundwork and I have a hunch after November, there will be a new army of leaders ready to finish the job.

If you want to get involved in the effort, you can join the NC Families Care Coalition, which Women AdvaNCe is a proud partner of.

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